European ministers sign charter against inequity in health systems
It was a tough project but in the end the ministers of health of 53 countries - the WHO European Region - agreed on a groundbreaking paper on healthcare, committing themselves to concrete actions to fight the fact that many people have no easy and affordable access to quality healthcare. They will strengthen a system that will allow both their own people and the international community to hold them accountable.
WHO estimates that, each year, health expenses cause 150 million people to suffer financial catastrophe and push 100 million below the poverty line."Health is the right of everyone and it has value in itself. It is in the interest of all governments to invest into the health of their populations as improving the health of the population makes a material contribution to the wealth of the nation," said Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe, at the charter signing ceremony today.
The charter details key actions needed to make health systems stronger such as improving transparency and accountability for health spending and ensure that spending is aligned to policy objectives. "Increasing investment in health will pay dividends only if it's well spent," said Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Deputy Regional Director for Europe. "There is no "right" or "optimal" size of the budget that should be devoted to health. We do not want to give the impression that simply increasing the level of budget allocations to the health sector will solve all problems. The health system needs to increase and demonstrate its capacity to use the money in a prudent and transparent manner."
As part of the preparation for the charter, WHO conducted studies that have produced evidence of the link between health and wealth of the population to make the case for giving serious political attention to the performance of health systems.
WHO's research shows that in the past the importance of the health system to the general health of the population has been underestimated, as has been the impact of better health on economic growth. Rather than being seen as a 'necessary burden', investment in effective health systems should be considered as an investment in the future well-being of the population.
Speakers at the Conference stressed that good health systems should not be a luxury that only rich countries can afford, but a fundamental part of the social and physical infrastructure that supports a country's prosperity, cohesion, and social well-being, underlining that the charter places particular emphasis on ensuring people are treated with dignity and respect when they come in contact with their health system.
Signing the Tallinn charter on behalf of all European ministers were Dr Maret Maripuu, Minister of Social Affairs of Estonia and Chair of the Conference; and Dr Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
The final text of the Charter will be published as soon as possible on the WHO European website at http://www.euro.who.int.
All sessions of the Conference, including the Charter signing ceremony, have been streamed live. Records are available on http://www.euro.who.int/healthsystems2008. Interviews with keynote speakers and leading experts will continue to be available after the Conference.
WHO Regional Office for Europe
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