Urgent Healthcare Reform Needed in WHO European Region
The Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development has called for urgent reform of health care, surveillance and governance in the WHO European Region in the wake of the COVID-19 health pandemic.
The Commission, an independent and interdisciplinary group of leaders convened by the WHO Regional Office for Europe to rethink policy priorities in the light of pandemics, has made a range of recommendations for the 53 countries that make up the WHO European Region.
Amongst the recommendations are:
- Adoption of a One Health policy recognizing the interconnectedness of human, animal and environmental health
- Addressing the deep-seated health, social, economic and gender inequalities exposed by the pandemic
- Investment in innovation, data collection and sharing, and strong national health systems.
- Improvements in regional and global health governance, learning lessons from COVID-19.
The Commission is calling for action at all levels of society referencing the lack of preparedness for the COVID pandemic when it first emerged in 2019 despite repeated warnings from the scientific community.
The pandemic has resulted in over 1.2 million deaths in the WHO European Region alone and an unprecedented economic downturn that dwarfs the 2008 global financial crisis.
Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said, “We can’t allow another pandemic to bring the world to its knees and must do everything in our power to prevent a catastrophe on the same scale from happening again. That’s why I have convened the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, led by former Italian Prime Minister Professor Mario Monti and made up of subject-matter experts from across the European Region, to reflect on what has and more often hasn’t worked in our response to COVID-19.”
As part of its One Health policy recommendation, are the establishment of cross-government One Health strategies, based on the concept of “health in all policies”, to safeguard future generations from existential threats.
In tackling health inequality, the Commission recommends countries identify and target those who lead precarious or impoverished lives and tackle societal distrust to improve social cohesion, including by setting quotas for female representation in public bodies tasked with drafting and implementing health policies.
It also recommends countries gather data on the various levels of health within populations and develop systems to monitor health inequality and access to health and social care.
Governments are being urged to harness innovation to improve One Health based on partnership between the public and private sectors, where both risks and returns are shared.
Addressing gaps in national health systems, the Commission calls on countries to address long-standing funding gaps in primary health care, mental health care and social care, while investing in and protecting the health workforce. It also calls on governments to proactively prioritize the prevention of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, rather than reacting to health-care issues as they arise.
The establishment of a Global Health Board is also recommended under the auspices of the G20, and the development of a Global Pandemic Treaty and a Global Pandemic Vaccine Policy along with a Pan-European Network for Disease Control and a Pan-European Health Threats Council.