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EPF responds to WHO European Regional Office’s new European Programme of Work

The WHO European Regional Office has published a new European Programme of Work (EPW), titled “United Action for Better Health”. This programme aligns with and supports the WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13). It sets out a vision for how WHO/Europe can better support countries in meeting citizens’ expectations on health for the future.

The programme is structured around three priorities: Moving towards universal health coverage; Protecting against health emergencies; and Promoting health and wellbeing. Under each of these priorities the EWP’s focus is on supporting member states’ efforts while using the convening power of the WHO and engaging with partners from all sectors.

The EPW will be put to the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region for their endorsement at WHO’s annual governance meeting, the 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, in September 2020.

EPF responded to the public consultation on the EPW by submitting a written statement (attached below). We also had an opportunity to give initial comments in an online consultation meeting between the WHO European Office team and non-state actors on 18 June. EPF gained accredited non-state actor status with the European Regional Office in 2019.

EPF’s response to the EPW is largely positive: it is an ambitious and timely draft programme of work with many potential synergies with the priorities of the European Commission and its new health programme. Its determination to address health inequalities and to leave no one behind aligns with the UN SDG3 on health, and many of its themes are important for patients, such as access to high-quality care without financial hardship and the proposed flagship initiatives on mental health and empowerment through digital health.

We pointed out, however, that the empowerment and meaningful involvement of patients and communities at all levels will be critical to the shaping and the delivery of the EPW, and should be more explicit.

“As an example, the COVID-19 pandemic showed that even advanced healthcare systems struggled to continue to provide care and treatment to patients in a crisis situation. Patients with chronic conditions have been often severely affected by disruptions in usual care: yet, in many countries, communication has been poor and patients have been largely excluded from policy discussions and decision-making,” said EPF Director of Policy Kaisa Immonen. To ensure that countries’ preparedness measures are fit for purpose, it will be crucial to involve patient organisations.  

EPF is committed to further discussions with the WHO European Regional Office on how we and our pan-European patient community can work in synergy and ensure civil society, including patient organisations, are empowered and included in all the actions of the EPW.  

For more information please contact policy@eu-patient.eu