New agreement between WHO/Europe and Welsh Government launched to accelerate action on health equity

WHO/Europe and the Welsh Government have agreed to work more closely together to promote health equity and rights and to ensure prosperity for all. Discussions with Public Health Wales and National Health Service (NHS) Wales, held at a virtual meeting on 4 November 2020, focused on the next steps in implementing the new agreement, and how to identify and overcome the common challenges faced by society both before and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In what kind of place would you like to grow up, have a family and grow old? Through its focus on building people’s resilience and strengthening health and livelihood systems, Wales has taken an approach that can deliver healthy and cohesive places for all people to prosper and flourish, today and for future generations. The learning from Wales on how to make this happen in practice will contribute to fulfilling my vision for health across the WHO European Region through the European Programme of Work,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“With this agreement between the Welsh Government and WHO, I look forward to supporting the delivery of health, sustainable development and prosperity to the people of Wales, and learning from these innovative approaches to strengthen health equity across Europe in the years to come,” he added.

A common sentiment expressed by many participants at the event was that the COVID-19 pandemic brings added urgency and impetus to this area of work.

Collaborative activities

The agreement calls on WHO/Europe and the Welsh Government to accelerate progress towards healthy, prosperous lives for all by increasing equity in health and leaving no one behind in Wales and the European Region. It also seeks to strengthen the role of Wales in the Region and globally in developing and sharing solutions and expertise through collaboration with WHO and its Member States, networks and partners.

Specific activities include:

  • developing a health equity status report for Wales with data, policy and health economics analysis, and potential solutions for policy action and investment to reduce health inequities;
  • creating a health equity solutions platform for Wales – a digital portal containing data, evidence, legislation, policies, tools and practical solutions to reduce health inequity; and
  • establishing Wales as a “live policy innovation site” through the development of innovative tools, mechanisms and digital solutions to model outcomes and impact and to monitor progress, and by providing a forum for sharing information, learning and know-how across the Region and beyond.

Cementing partnership with Wales

The joint work emerging from this agreement further reinforces the strong collaboration between WHO/Europe and Wales on technical and policy issues related to sustainable development and public health.

Wales was a founding member of and is active in the WHO Regions for Health Network, takes part in advisory groups and task forces coordinated by WHO/Europe, and hosts the WHO Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Well-Being at Public Health Wales.

“Through our WHO Collaborating Centre, we have worked closely with our colleagues at WHO for the last few years, and this memorandum of understanding comes at an extremely important time as we move swiftly to mitigate the broader health impacts of the coronavirus and learn together in doing so,” said Dr Tracey Cooper, Chief Executive of Public Health Wales.

“It also marks a further strengthening of Wales’s relationship with WHO. In partnership with the Welsh Government, we will work collaboratively on the agreed work plan to optimize health and well-being and improve health equity in these challenging times,” she added.

Health equity at the core of the European Programme of Work (EPW)

Addressing the persistent challenge of health inequalities to ensure that no one is left behind is a core value underpinning the EPW for 2020–2025, which was endorsed by Member States in September 2020. This priority is shared by the Welsh Government.

“Here in Wales, we are fully committed to achieving sustainable prosperity within our borders and beyond. Wales, like most countries, experiences inequalities in health, but we are determined to build a healthier Wales for all,” said Mr Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales.

“Having our hard work recognized by the World Health Organization is a true testament to the hard work and grit of the people of Wales, who are continually working for equality for our nation,” he concluded.

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