My priorities

The Why: A new landscape in the WHO European Region

Health in the WHO European Region is generally improving, yet the commitment to leave no one behind is under threat due a number of universal trends, including:

  • sharp increases in mental illness and noncommunicable diseases;
  • outbreaks and other security threats with significant costs to economies;
  • antimicrobial resistance;
  • climate change;
  • social and political norms, accepted for decades, are being questioned;
  • an uncertain global economic outlook impacting negatively on public finances;
  • increasing cost of healthcare and medicines;
  • growing expectations of citizens;
  • shortages and mobility of health workers, population ageing and demographic change; 
  • increasing migration with consequences for communities and their health state;
  • growing inequities within and between countries.

Within this new landscape, the Region’s solidarity is a precious asset to be nurtured and preserved. An innovative Regional Office can turn rapidly evolving developments, such as the digital revolution, into opportunities for better health and equity. Only by working together and learning from each other can we enforce the human right to health and thereby contribute to fair, safe and stable societies.

The What: Four priorities for health in the WHO European Region

In nearly 25 years as a doctor and a policy advisor working with patients, government ministers, national administrations, communities, health workers, civil society and other partners, in some of the most challenging settings on Earth, I have demonstrated my strength as a good listener, as well as a person of action. I have led and motivated multicultural teams focused on the issues that affect real people. Since moving to the WHO European Region ten years ago, I have gained a deep insight into the challenges we face together. I believe that my record shows that I have been able to provide relevant and pragmatic help to Member States with measurable results.

I will further engage in a dialogue with Ministers of Health and key stakeholders to ensure that regional priorities are driven by country needs and are evidence-informed.

Together, we can:

1. Tackle the main drivers of the disease burden

Member States face a complex burden of disease with escalating noncommunicable diseases and mental illness, but also with antimicrobial resistance and re-emerging infectious diseases that can put security and population health at risk. To address this burden, there must be a sound balance between health promotion, disease prevention and curative care. While recognizing the global nature of these threats, I advocate for solutions that take into account individual Member State and sub-regional needs and contexts.

2. Address the health determinants

In today’s world, the difference between ill and good health is largely driven by factors that lie outside the health sector, such as education, loneliness, income and employment status, welfare benefits, housing and environmental conditions including the influence of climate change. If appointed, one of my principal tasks will be to support Ministers of Health in making government leaders and other government sectors aware of the importance of investing in health and well-being for safe, stable and fair societies. Building on my past experience, I will continue to gather convincing economic arguments and support Ministers of Health in effectively communicating these to the Ministers of Finance and across government more generally.  

3. Transform public health and health systems to put people first

I have seen at first-hand how well-coordinated, people-centred health systems make a real and tangible difference to improving health and wellbeing. I have championed the concept of integrating public health, primary care, social care and specialist services which can save millions of lives, protect families from becoming poor due to ill health and increase health security.

Knowledge sharing is needed on evidence-based models of good governance, health literacy and empowerment of patients and health workers, a skilled and motivated health workforce, equitable financing models and access to essential medicines, together with harnessing the potential of digital technologies and data-driven innovations, such as big data an artificial intelligence.

Building on recent successes I have championed, such as the health system response to noncommunicable diseases and multidrug resistant tuberculosis, the Regional Office will broaden interprogrammatic work at both country and regional level.

Yet, too often we fall short of what is possible because of lack of understanding about how transformation can be successfully implemented in particular contexts. Implementing transformation in complex health systems requires attention to relationship building and the incentive structure in health systems, bringing together key partners to find and adopt solutions to complex problems.

Such transformation will improve health outcomes, patient and provider satisfaction, and the financial sustainability of health systems.

4. Safeguard all population groups

Health is a human right to which everyone is entitled, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, country of origin or financial means. This rights-based view to good health demands a life-course approach with particular attention to vulnerable groups in each country. These may include single mothers and children, elderly people, the jobless, people living with HIV, migrants and others whose health and well-being is at enhanced risk. No one should suffer stigma or discrimination.

The How: 6 strategic directions for the future

The Regional Office has one essential mission:
inspiring and supporting Member States to improve the health of their populations at all ages.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly address the multiple, interacting determinants of health, underpinning the view that health should be taken into account in every major government policy. If appointed, I will ensure that, in partnership with Member States and other stakeholders, the Regional Office develops ongoing technical support and pragmatic guidance and tools to achieve all the health-related SDGs. This support will be adapted to each country context with a focus on integrated work across sectors, goals and targets. The World Health Organization’s 13th General Programme of Work (2019-2023), that has universal health coverage at its heart, provides the operational framework for doing so. I will support the “One WHO approach” linking the global, regional and country levels of the Organization, while ensuring that it is also aligned with the ongoing United Nations (UN) reform for the benefit of the Member States. I am committed to building upon the positive achievements made in the past decades by the Regional Office.

If appointed, I will lead the work of the Regional Office in 6 strategic directions:

1. Provide a roadmap for the Region’s future to better health

The Regional Office will strengthen the capacities of countries to seize new opportunities and to anticipate and manage future trends and threats by:

  • horizon scanning to identify emerging challenges working with Member States, experts and international partners;
  • developing practical country tools and instruments building on the WHO European Health Systems Foresight initiative.

Such pressing issues include: how to reconcile increased health expenditure with limited economic growth; how to bring disease prevention and action on the determinants of health to the forefront of policy; and how to meaningfully engage with citizens to improve their health and well-being.

2. Ensure health security in the face of emergencies and other threats to health

As part of the WHO Health Emergency Programme, a stronger Regional Office will help countries by:

  • strengthening national capacity for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery using an all-hazards, all-health and intersectoral approach in accordance with the capacity requirements of the International Health Regulations;
  • maintaining the unique role of the WHO European region in offering support to health emergencies globally;
  • ensuring an emergency fund that can release resources to countries rapidly when needed;
  • acting as a broker to optimize and mobilize national and regional expertise across the Region in support to affected countries;
  • establishing a well-staffed, 24/7 regional command centre linked to the WHO Strategic Health Operation Centre (SHOC) in Geneva to assist countries in screening for preventing and responding to any health threat;
  • integrating advances in the social and behavioural science with emergency risk management and communications.

3. Pursue the Health Transformation Initiative

The Regional Office will assist Member States in transforming their health systems and putting health in all policies in place by:

  • creating a network of policy makers and experts to provide ongoing mentoring and coaching on transformation;
  • coordinating a WHO pan-European Transformational Leadership Academy to support the scale-up of effective and sustainable innovations;
  • developing the tools and instruments to put transformation into practice;
  • functioning as a hub for the exchange of knowledge and implementation experiences at the policy level.

4. Empower people and raise health literacy

The Regional Office will assist Member States in creating the enabling conditions for people to live healthy lives by:

  • helping Ministries of Health and health professionals to communicate health messages to the general public and increase digital health literacy;
  • translating the latest advances in social media, technologies and communications research into practical guidance and tools to promote health;
  • working with partners to identify and act upon the most effective strategies for empowering individuals and communities and improving health literacy;
  • establishing an interdisciplinary unit in WHO to advise on policy to support behavioural change as a key determinant of people’s health.

5. Leverage strategic partnerships for better health

By fostering united action, the WHO Regional Office will:

  • strengthen coordination and collaboration with the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union and other political platforms;
  • continue to contribute to global health action, including in the field of noncommunicable diseases and digitalization;
  • create new – and scale up existing – partnerships around specific sets of SDGs with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, other United Nations agencies, health professional entities, civil society, informal carers and the private sector;
  • take the lead in identifying co-benefits for other sectors to advance health-related SDGs;
  • increase the benefit for countries participating in regional and sub-regional networks such as the WHO European Small Countries Initiative, the Regions for Health Network, Healthy Cities and those designed to increase access to medicines;
  • share credit for success and be held accountable for shortfalls.

6. Take the Regional Office towards further excellence

Change begins at home. If appointed, I will make the Regional Office an agile, country-focused organization, that is both proactive and reactive, and always able to provide trustworthy and timely expertise relevant to all Member States. A great Regional Office will:

  • respect the principles of transparency and accountability when reporting to its governing bodies and donors;
  • ensure an innovative results-oriented approach to country work;
  • support gender balance and ensure staff representation from across the Region;
  • make optimal use of its human and financial resources;
  • introduce leaner, cost-effective administrative procedures and practices;
  • create excellent communications and pursue digital transformation;
  • assure a respectful work environment with a healthy work-life balance and zero-tolerance of harassment.