A call to action: national governments and the global community must act now

WHO Europe, 16 March 2021

Today, the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development called on governments, economic and social stakeholders, and international organizations to rethink their broad policy priorities, to step up investments and reforms in health- and social-care systems, and to upgrade global governance of public goods, such as health and the environment.

Unless all 3 efforts are vigorously pursued, it is unlikely that the world can avoid new, devastating pandemics or other global health crises.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the inequalities and deep fault lines that exist in many societies. It has revealed that our existing health, financial, economic and social-care systems were ill prepared and poorly equipped to address SARS-CoV-2 effectively.

Five months since it was first convened, the Commission has delivered this call to action – the first outcome of its work – to feed into broader national and supranational discussions taking place on how to tackle the deep-rooted conditions that allowed the COVID-19 pandemic to inflict unprecedented damage on lives and economies. It provides guidance on how we should prioritize health and sustainable development now to set our systems and societies on the right track for generations to come.

Key proposals outlined in the call to action are to:

  • identify, assess and respond to risks arising from human activities, including climate change, emerging zoonotic infections and antimicrobial resistance, through the establishment of an Intergovernmental Panel on Health Threats;
  • mend fractures in society and reinvigorate trust in institutions by identifying and engaging with people who are disenfranchised, and by improving access to health and social services;
  • recognize that spending on health care, social care, education and research is an investment in the human and intellectual capital that drives progress. Specifically, incorporate One Health-related risks (across human, animal and environmental health) into the risk analyses used by international financial institutions, public authorities and the financial sector;
  • create at the G20 level a Global Health Board modelled on the Financial Stability Board to identify vulnerabilities that threaten the health of humans, animals and the environment, and promote an International Pandemic Treaty; and
  • encourage the discovery and development of medicines, medical technologies, digital solutions and organizational innovations, and enhance the transparency of public–private partnerships.

The Commission’s work will culminate in a report to be published in September 2021 with recommendations on investments and reforms to improve health- and social-care systems.

Mario Monti, Chair of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, President of Bocconi University (Italy) and former Prime Minister of Italy:

“We are calling on government leaders and international organizations to fix the fractures in our societies and stop turning a blind eye to the conditions that allowed the novel coronavirus to inflict such grave damage on the world. A number of things need to change, from our societies’ views on health and social care, to whether financial systems take environmental and health risks adequately into account, and how global governance responds to the increasingly key role of public goods. We have a choice: to ignore the evidence and risk being even harder hit in future pandemics, or to heed the warnings and implement the lessons we have learned.”

Tarja Halonen, former President of the Republic of Finland:

“This pandemic has shown the weaknesses of our societies concerning political and societal resilience. Based on past experiences, we have a limited time window to bring about much-needed change. We must use the current political will and momentum to strengthen the resilience of our society to be able to withstand future pandemics.”

Roza Otunbayeva, former President of the Kyrgyz Republic:

“COVID-19 has shone a harsh light on the inequalities in our societies. Providing everyone with access to quality health services and ensuring equal participation in decision-making will go far to help restore trust in institutions, build social cohesion, drive economic growth, and strengthen security and hope. Universal health coverage is the centrepiece of sustainable societies.”

Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe:

“I welcome the call to action made by the Commission. They were tasked with rethinking health policy, extending far beyond the pre-pandemic definition of health. What I am particularly keen on seeing is that public health is no longer considered a peripheral issue. More than a year into a health emergency that has shaken societies to their very core, it should be clear to all of us that health is an investment that drives progress. This initial guidance by the Commission – a vital part of the European Programme of Work – is crucial to pave the way to deliver united action for better health.”

About the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development

The Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development is an independent and interdisciplinary group of leaders, convened by the WHO Regional Office for Europe on the initiative of its Regional Director Hans Kluge, to rethink policy priorities in the light of pandemics.

Comprising former heads of state and government, distinguished life scientists and economists, heads of health- and social-care institutions, and leaders of the business community and financial institutions from across the WHO European Region, the Commission brings together individuals with outstanding expertise and experience.

The group of 19 commissioners is chaired by Mario Monti, President of Bocconi University, former Prime Minister of Italy and former European Commissioner. Elias Mossialos, Founder and Director of the Department of Health Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), is the Commission’s Scientific Coordinator, and its deliberations are supported by a Scientific Advisory Board. Its deliberations are supported by a Scientific Advisory Board chaired by Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Research Director of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.

Original article here.

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