Voices of the Region: ERS contribution to the WHO Europe’s 69th Regional Committee

17 September, 2019

Health ministers and high-level representatives of the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region, as well as partner and civil society organisations, are taking part in the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe this week.

The meeting is taking place at UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark from 16–19 September 2019, and will cover a number of key technical health issues on the agenda, including:

  • Lessons learned from Health 2020 implementation in the WHO European Region since 2012;
  • Leadership in public health in the WHO European Region;
  • Promoting health equity in the WHO European Region;
  • Implementation of the Programme Budget 2018–2019;
  • Programme Budget 2020–2021: the regional perspective;
  • WHO transformation and its regional implications;
  • WHO’s work at country level;
  • Report of the WHO European Region’s geographically dispersed offices;
  • Accelerating primary health care in the WHO European Region;
  • Health literacy in the WHO European Region;
  • Accreditation of regional non-state actors to the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.

Ahead of the meeting, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Advocacy Council Chair, Professor Jørgen Vestbo, prepared a video statement that highlights the importance of targeting key risk factors for health in order to protect human health.

Within the statement, Professor Vestbo explains: “Leadership in public health requires more ambitious targets for our region in Europe. In order to ensure better health equity, we need to address the health determinants. A very important health determinant is air pollution. Air pollution is the cause for many noncommunicable diseases, and in particular asthma. We know that if women who are pregnant are exposed to air pollution, their babies are at a significantly increased risk of developing asthma."

He added: “Researchers publishing work in our journal have shown that up to 67,000 cases of childhood asthma could be avoided every year in Europe if countries would meet the World Health Organization air quality limit values, so it is essential that we reduce exposure.”

Professor Vestbo’s statement continues to highlight the importance of ensuring free or subsidized access to asthma medications, and calls upon policymakers to include asthma medications on national essential medicines lists.

Watch the statement by ERS Advocacy Council Chair Professor Jørgen Vestbo

Visit the website for the WHO Europe’s 69th Regional Committee