WHO’s ambitious new European health strategy

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5928 (Published 5 September 2012)
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5928

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  1. David J Hunter, professor of health policy and management
  1. 1School of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Health, Centre for Public Policy and Health, Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University Queen’s Campus, Stockton on Tees TS17 6BH, UK
  1. d.j.hunter{at}durham.ac.uk

Political will must be galvanised for Health 2020 to succeed

It may seem the wrong moment to launch an ambitious European health policy framework and strategy and invite governments to adopt it, as the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe is asking its 53 member states to do. However, the architects of Health 2020,1 2 WHO’s flagship strategy that has been in preparation for almost two years and will be launched at the 62nd Regional Committee in Malta, 10-14 September 2012, regard the timing as propitious. They insist that, although the economic and fiscal crises facing Europe present major challenges, they also present opportunities to renew efforts to improve the health of European people. The argument that lies at the heart of Health 2020 is that “good health is essential for economic and social development.” It echoes Derek Wanless’s recommendation a decade ago to the UK government that it should emphasise public health more strongly to ensure the survival of the NHS.3

WHO issues its European health report every three years. The 2012 report provides the context that explains why the Health 2020 strategy needs to be taken seriously.4 Although people across Europe are generally living longer, often in better health, these improvements are not being shared equally. Substantial health inequalities persist between and within countries and are increasing in some cases, as set out in WHO’s European review of social determinants of health …

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