Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
WHO Countries start negotiating a European charter on health systems
Article Type: News and views From: Leadership in Health Services, Volume 21, Issue 2.
Edited by Jo Lamb-White
Keywords: Leadership strategies, Patient empowerment, Healthcare collaboration
WHO calls for new approaches to health services delivery and the role of patients. Experts met in Bled, Slovenia at the end of 2007 to discuss how people’s increasingly complex health needs require a change in the balance of professional and patient involvement in care.
The meeting also provided a forum for discussing a European charter on health systems, currently under development by Member States in the WHO European Region. Its objective is to provide guidance and a strategic framework for strengthening health systems throughout the Region. This process is led by a charter-drafting group of experts from Member States.
As people live longer and can be treated for long-term conditions, but are exposed to modern lifestyle risk factors, the burden of disease that health systems must tackle has changed. Diseases including heart disease, diabetes and asthma, some mental disorders, cancer, certain disabilities and impairments, as well as some communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, require management over a period of years or decades.
Today health systems that have traditionally dealt with people’s acute, short-term health needs must change and adapt to this new reality. As managing chronic disease is not about cure but enhancing quality of life and minimizing symptoms long term, patients should clearly take an active role in managing their illness. “Patient empowerment is vital for health systems to be responsive and adapt to people’s needs. Yet we must also ensure that the weakest in society, indeed those who so often require health care most, are not left behind. WHO is committed to helping countries find effective ways of providing professional care and improving information and self-management for all patients. I hope that these early discussions on a European charter on health systems will lead in the right direction” (Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe).
Countries increasingly recognize that addressing diseases early reduces the pressure on health systems. This shifts the focus from treatment to prevention, which also has economic repercussions. In the United Kingdom, for example, it has been estimated that the financial needs for health care projected for 2022 will differ by 50 million, depending on whether the health of the population improves according to the most optimistic or pessimistic estimates.
The experts considered strategies that ensure the coordination and continuity of care, both of which are central to ensuring the cost-effective and responsive delivery of services. The meeting emphasized the role of integrating health system services in cancer control, and thus learning from the work under way, in preparation for the Slovenian presidency of the European Union in 2008, on fighting against cancer in Europe today.
The findings from the meeting have contributed to the agenda of the WHO European Ministerial Conference on Health Systems: “Health Systems, Health and Wealth”, to be held in Tallinn, Estonia in 2008. The charter is also expected to be submitted for adoption by Member States at the Conference in Tallinn.
The Conference will take place on 25-27 June 2008, hosted by the Government of Estonia. It is part of the Regional Office’s continuing commitment to supporting Member States in strengthening their health systems.
The Conference aims to place health systems high on the political agenda. Specifically, it will:
lead to a better understanding of the impact of health systems on people’s health and therefore on economic growth in the WHO European Region; and
take stock of recent evidence on effective strategies to improve the performance of health systems, given the increasing pressures on them to ensure sustainability and solidarity.
High-level delegations will be invited, as well as health systems partners, experts, observers and representatives of international and civil society organizations and the mass media. Particular emphasis will be placed on engaging ministries of finance through the ministries of health.
For further information: www.euro.who.int