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Statements to the 69th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe on Digital Health Literacy and Promoting Health Equity

18 September, 2019

The 69th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe took place from 16 September 2019 to 19 September 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The European Region’s governing body met to discuss and take collective action on major health issues, such as health equity and primary health care. The decisions taken at the Regional Committee meeting feed into policies that drive much of the action towards improved health in the Region.

Find more information on the 2019 Regional Committee here.


During this session, EuroHealthNet made two statements – one on digital health literacy, and one on promoting health equity. Find both statements below.


EuroHealthNet’s Statement to the 69th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe on Digital Health Literacy

EuroHealthNet, the European Partnership for health, equity and wellbeing, welcomes the proposed Roadmap for implementation of health literacy initiatives through the life course. We see the calls for action on Promoting Health in the 2030 Agenda as a means by which progress can be achieved and measured, regionally and globally. We are pleased that initiatives to implement the Shanghai Declaration are being actively taken forward by the Regional Office for Europe and Member States.

However, there is much to be done, in some cases urgently. As the Roadmap shows, only 19 European Member States are currently developing relevant policies, despite the definition of health literacy in the WHO health promotion glossary since 1998. That definition has of course partly been overtaken by developments and innovations. They offer both opportunities and challenges, which can be strongly addressed if the Roadmap is taken forward.

Now there is a new impetus which makes health literacy an even more dynamic determinant of health and equity: the digital transformation of societies and systems, including curative, therapeutic and preventive health and care, to which many citizens of the European Region have new rights. It is welcome that improving digital health literacy is among the five strategic directions in the Roadmap.

Point 39 recognises this new dynamic and how integrated approaches are vital, including co-design throughout – from initiation through implementation to evaluation. Point 41 highlights its importance on policy agendas, so we welcome the suggestions in Point 43 for actions in all settings and to decrease inequalities and social exclusion. But we hope these will swiftly become more strengthened commitments, which can be effectively implemented and evaluated in the new partnerships being established, which are imperative for effectiveness.

EuroHealthNet has published our Policy Precis onDigital Health Literacy: How new Skills can help improve health, equity and sustainability“. It includes stimulating examples from our partners plus recommendations on policies, protections, practices, public and professional engagements which have been developed by our experts and indicates how EU and other programmes can help.

The Policy Precis is available via our website, plus other relevant outcomes on this subject which we have championed over many years. We are also publishing innovative new information on how to resource such initiatives, as a welcome part of the WHO Europe Coalition of Partners, via an Investment Guide and Online Tool for policymakers and practitioners. This is a vital aspect which is not yet sufficiently addressed in the Roadmap but can be improved.

We look forward to continuing to contribute towards these improvements and to successful outcomes for the Health Literacy Roadmap priorities.


This statement is available in PDF here.

Also read our Policy Precis on Digital Health Literacy.



EuroHealthNet’s Statement to the 69th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe on Promoting Health Equity

EuroHealthNet, the European Partnership for Health, Equity and Wellbeing, welcomes the Draft Resolution Accelerating progress towards healthy prosperous lives for all, increasing equity in health and leaving no one behind in the European Region.” We congratulate the WHO Regional Office and Member States responsible for organising the conference held in Ljubljana in June, in which EuroHealthNet and many of its members were pleased to participate and contribute.

EuroHealthNet’s mission has prioritised health and social equity within and between European states for over two decades. We shall seek to continue to contribute to the work and objectives of WHO globally and regionally, plus its Member States, as appropriate.

We also continue to advise the Institutions and Programmes of the European Union, as it reaches the landmark of a decade since publication of its Communication “Solidarity in Health” on tackling health inequalities. We already support the EU Joint Action Health Equity Europe, JAHEE. We are reinvigorating our own health equity online Portal. This will update on new initiatives plus new ways to stimulate innovative and equitable investments, as a part of the WHO Europe Coalition of Partners.

The Resolution’s request to place health equity at the centre of sustainable development and inclusive economies offers potentially important progress. We welcome its call for organisations and partnerships such as ours to “engage in and support” its implementation. We will do whatever we can. But in order to do so effectively, we make a respectful request in turn: that true partnership working should be better understood and practiced by all International and national bodies.

Evidence shows that effective involvement of all affected stakeholders at all stages and all levels – including design, initiation and evaluation of actions, as well as implementation – needs to be intrinsic, not just tokenistic. That means better involving dynamic sub national and civil society bodies, who have so much potential to help – if they are valued and their capacities are enhanced.

We and others can be a crucial part of the solutions. No International Organisation, State or stakeholder can achieve these complex, challenging but vital objectives alone. That is partly why progress has been variable and slow. Of course, that is in addition to common wider problems of tackling symptoms rather than underlying causes of inequities, as Professor Sir Michael Marmot has so vividly demonstrated. That too should change.

Our website includes links to our work and yours, from research outcomes to practice models and examples, to policy recommendations. They will support this Resolution’s call and its aim – to accelerate slow progress to overcome the persistent inequities in health and its determinants which blight and damage all our systems, countries and communities.

We know enough to act. We are ready, willing and able to help play our active part.


This statement is available in PDF here.

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