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Public Health

EC/WHO Senior Officials Meeting (20 February 2015)

The 12th Senior Officials Meeting was hosted by the Commission and co-chaired by Dr Ladislav Miko, Acting Director General of DG Health and Food Safety, and Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. It focused on six main issues: Ebola, health security, anti-microbial resistance, in-country cooperation, access to medicines globally, and cooperation in the European region.

On Ebola, EU and WHO participants stressed the importance of keeping the political attention on the outbreak, up until we reach zero cases. Both sides shared their analysis of the lessons to be learnt from the crisis and on the way forward, mindful that Ebola was not only a health crisis, but that it revealed fundamental deficiencies of state structures, governance, education, etc. There was a common assessment that the Ebola crisis demonstrated the importance of building resilient health systems, and the need to move away from focussing health systems on vertical health goals. Moreover, participants agreed on the crucial importance of implementing the resolution adopted at the WHO Executive Board Special Session on Ebola of January 2015, to strengthen WHO’s ability to respond effectively to health emergencies. The Commission confirmed that it stands fully behind WHO to achieve this goal. Finally, on the research side, participants discussed the various projects supported by the EU and welcomed the WHO’s role in coordinating all research efforts on Ebola.

The discussion on health security showed a strong convergence of views between the two organisations on the need to further push for the full implementation of the International Health Regulations. Both sides agreed on the importance to continuously invest in preparedness. They welcomed the impetus provided by the Global Health Security Agenda, while agreeing that this initiative should be plugged in into existing governance structures and embedded in broader efforts to strengthen health systems.

With regard to Anti-Microbial Resistance, participants took stock of their respective initiatives to tackle this priority issues. They identified as a particular challenge the need to ensure global access to new antibiotics, while at the same time guaranteeing prudent and rational use of these products. As Anti-Microbial Resistance is an overall societal challenge, they recognised the need to engage with stakeholders, beyond the health sector.

As regards cooperation in non-EU countries, officials from both organisations reported on the important ongoing cooperation taking place (notably the Universal Health Coverage partnership and the ACP Pharmaceutical partnership) and agreed on its relevance for health sector development. They also discussed ways to overcome barriers that prevent layers and thematic structures of WHO to work productively together. They concurred that getting assurance and demonstrating further progress on this front would be a key element in order to be able to support the continuation of the on-going programmes.

On access to medicines, participants recognised the good cooperation between WHO, WTO, and WIPO and the need to expand collaboration on this topic into areas beyond Intellectual Property Rights issues. WHO stressed the need for political compromises at the global level in order to make progress on this issue.

Finally, on the cooperation between the Commission and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, participants reviewed the achievements of the joint work of the last five years in innovation, health security, health information, health systems, health inequalities, non-communicable diseases and in-country collaboration, and took note of the concrete steps for collaboration for the coming year.