The European Programme of Work, 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe” (EPW) has been developed through a process of extensive consultation with Member States, the European Commission, non-State actors, intergovernmental and United Nations organizations, as well as WHO staff. Following the recommendation of the 27th Standing Committee of the Regional Committee for Europe, it was submitted for adoption to the 70th session of the Regional Committee in September 2020.
EPW sets priorities for the coming five years by starting from what citizens in the Region legitimately expect from their health authorities. People want their authorities to guarantee their right to universal access to quality care without fear of financial hardship; they want them to offer effective protection against health emergencies; and they want to be able to thrive in healthy communities, where public health actions and appropriate public policies secure a better life in an economy of well-being.
People increasingly – and rightly – hold their health authorities to account for meeting those expectations. The EPW sets out a vision of how the WHO (World Health Organization) Regional Office for Europe can support health authorities in Member States to rise to that challenge, in each country and collectively in the Region.
The development of the EPW’s vision started before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Region so fiercely. Given the state of flux in European health systems, the EPW should be seen as a live document that will regularly be updated.
While recognizing that every WHO region has its particular challenges, opportunities and priorities, the EPW demonstrates how the work of the WHO Regional Office for Europe can best contribute to the global vision set out in WHO’s Thirteenth General Programme of Work, 2019–2023 (GPW 13), and to the preparation of the upcoming GPW 14. It aligns the work of WHO/Europe with the triple billion targets, while supporting countries in their commitments to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All.
The three core priorities of EPW are the following:
- Moving towards universal health coverage (UHC). People expect their governments to secure their right to UHC and their health systems to respond to a comprehensive range of health threats and problems, collective and individual, acute and chronic. WHO/Europe will support the efforts of Member States to build robust, resilient and evidence-informed systems, as the core of post-COVID-19 recovery;
- Protecting against health emergencies. Learning from COVID-19 crisis is relevant for pandemic recovery and for tackling the public health challenges. It will also guide efforts by WHO/Europe to build capacity to support countries in preventing, detecting and responding to a range of health emergencies as well as to the risks associated with climate change, zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance;
- Promoting health and well-being. People place great value on living in safe and supportive communities, where the social and physical environment favours physical, psychological and social health. The actions for prevention and promotion of well-being require programmes with a visible commitment to dedicated and specific public health efforts.
Written by G. Pasta from ValueDo (Florence, Italy)