Next steps to deliver “United Action for Better Health” in Europe

From the launch of a new centre for health emergency preparedness; the establishment of a scientific advisory board to help identify policy priorities during pandemics; and the formation of a regional tripartite joint secretariat to coordinate One Health action against antimicrobial resistance (AMR); to preparing for COVID-19 vaccine deployment and availability; and restructuring WHO/Europe, progress is being made on all fronts to deliver the European Programme of Work (EPW) – “United Action for Better Health”.

At a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Regional Committee (SCRC), WHO/Europe’s governance board, on 18 November 2020, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, detailed the wide range of activities undertaken by WHO/Europe since the EPW was adopted by Member States in September 2020.

Key among these developments are:

  • operationalization of the WHO European Centre for Preparedness for Humanitarian and Health Emergencies in Istanbul, Turkey, which serves as the regional centre for emergency preparedness and provides technical expertise to improve capacity-building and operationalize selected International Health Regulations (2005) core capacity areas;
  • detailed discussions during the second meeting of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, which is to provide policy recommendations on health and care systems, building on experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic; thematic working groups have been set up so that commissioners can explore specific areas such as the economic outlook, innovation and digital transformation, and the role of science in policy-making; a scientific advisory board has also been established to support the Commission’s work;
  • establishing a regional tripartite joint secretariat together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to coordinate One Health action against AMR across the WHO European Region;
  • preparation for COVID-19 vaccination deployment and availability, including discussions with the European Commission, the introduction of an online platform to monitor national-level preparedness, and guidance on the prioritization of population groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Region;
  • finalizing a comprehensive restructuring of WHO/Europe, with a comprehensive functional review of all divisions, following the appointment of a new Executive Council.

After the Regional Director’s overview of the activities of WHO/Europe, and an update on the COVID-19 situation in the Region by the Regional Emergency Director, Dr Dorit Nitzan, members of the SCRC reviewed the initial draft programme for next year’s session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. They also considered the tasks of committee subgroups that will work in the areas of WHO/Europe governance, work at country level and financing.

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