Inaugural meeting of Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development takes place

The inaugural meeting of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development took place on 26 August, bringing together the Commission’s members for the first time to review the objectives and agree the terms and scope of the Commission.

This independent Commission, initiated by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, seeks to draw lessons on how different countries’ health systems responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and make recommendations on investments and reforms to improve the resilience of health and social care systems.

Made up of distinguished individuals from a range of disciplines, with a gender and geographic balance, the Commission’s members highlighted the importance of recognizing that health and the economy are intrinsically linked, requiring appropriate investments.

The Commission also placed a strong emphasis on the need for international and supranational solutions to global crises, as highlighted by the response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during a virtual press briefing the day after the Commission’s launch, Dr Kluge said: “I convened the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development to rethink policies in the light of pandemics”.

“The Commission addresses the need to rethink policy priorities and position health at the top of the political agenda, acknowledging that health is a powerful determinant of economic development and social cohesion.”

The objectives of the Commission include:

  • reconsidering policy-making following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • identifying challenges and opportunities for health and social care systems in the WHO European Region;
  • making evidence-based recommendations on ensuring that policy-making and governance consider the potential impact of pandemics, upgrading the structure of and investment in health systems, building resilience in health systems and calculating the short- and long-term costs of inaction.

Chaired by Professor Mario Monti, President of Bocconi University and a former Italian Prime Minister and European Commissioner, the Commission will produce an independent report highlighting policy options to strengthen health systems and societies across the European Region when faced with major health and socioeconomic challenges.

Professor Monti also spoke at the press briefing, outlining the importance of the Commission’s work: “The Commission will take a magnifying glass to current economic and social policies, using the evidence of how these policies have performed in light of this pandemic. We will make recommendations on how such policies should be enhanced at the national and international levels to forecast, prevent and respond to future crises”.

Next steps

The Commission’s Scientific Advisory Board will work closely with WHO/Europe to gather evidence and identify possibilities for investment, as well as priorities for health systems.

It will also evaluate the evidence that is available before providing independent advice on how to improve health system resilience.

Furthermore, the Commission will review the challenges facing health systems over the next 20–30 years, prioritize the outcomes of long-term health systems resilience policies and promote equity of access to health services.

The Commission’s work will culminate in a report to be published in September 2021 with recommendations on investments and reforms to improve health and social care systems.

The next meeting of the Commission is expected to take place in October of this year.


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