Rethinking European Health Systems Priorities, - FM represented!

Dr Anna Stavdal, WONCA President-elect, recently represented family medicine at the WHO Pan-European Commission.

After a short period of shock and disbelief when the pandemic hit, awareness of the seriousness of the situation kicked in among health care workers, politicians and populations in general.

One thing became very clear: we were not prepared for this.

The threats following the pandemic come on top of already existing pressures on health and social care systems. The COVID-19 crisis works as an magnifying glass, and makes it very clear that prevention, responsiveness and efficiency are key concepts for health systems resilience.

In July, the invitation to participate in the WHO Pan European Commission landed in my inbox. The newly appointed WHO Europe regional director, Hans Kluge, explained what he wanted the commission to achieve:
Our goal is to position health at the top of the political agenda within the Sustainable Development Goals, and to strengthen the resilience of health and social care systems in the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region.

The Commission was launched end of August, with the attention and support from the WHO Director General Dr Tedros. It will deliver its report to the WHO Regional Committee next September, and will give recommendations on investments and reforms to improve the resilience of health and social care systems. A tall order!

The Commission is chaired by former Italian prime minster, Mario Monti, and consists of 17 people from a wide range of professional backgrounds - economists, social scientists, Public Health experts and more - and one practising health care worker, representing family medicine!

The work is organised into five working groups, with the support of a scientific advisory board provided by the WHO secretariat.

Thematically, the working groups are tasked with Political and Societal Resilience; Technology and Innovation; International Governance for Health; One Health; and Health, Sustainable Development, and the Economy. I am a member of three groups. Two advocacy groups are appointed as well, to ensure that two overarching aspects are taken into consideration in the final recommendations - firstly, future Generations; and secondly, the group which I chair, Gender.

This is a European based commission, but we are dealing with a global pandemic, which doesn’t respect national or regional borders. Expectations from WHO HQ are that the outcome of this Commission would prove to be of value globally.

It is a huge achievement that family medicine is represented on the Commission, as the only clinical specialty. It is recognition of the importance of primary care and the highly trained generalist as a member of the multidisciplinary team.

In order to impact the outcomes of this commission, I need to draw on experience and input from the family medicine community. I will be highly appreciative of input from members of the WONCA family.

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