July 27, 2015 | Monday

HEALTH 2020 AND KOSOVO – by Skender Syla

Good health is vital for economic and social development. Creating opportunities for individuals so they can have control over their health strengthens communities and improves lives. Health and welfare of citizens is better achieved if all sectors of Government work together to address the social and individual determinants of health.
In the last decades, throughout the European region, health has been greatly improved – but not everywhere and not on equal measures. The rapid growth of chronic diseases and mental disorders, lack of social cohesion, environmental threats and financial insecurities has made the health maintanance more difficult.
WHO Health 2020 urges European countries to apply a better justice and governance for health.
But what is the health of Kosovars and what are its prospects to 2020?
In January 2000, WHO organized the international seminar “Care for the newborns and breastfeeding in Kosovo”.   At the time we prioritized healthy start to life because newborn health indicators were cumbersome, however this was also a priority of health policies drafted immediately after the conflict. Also it is known that the best and the most co-effective investment is investing in early childhood. At that time, within a year, around 1150 infants were dying during their first week of life or were born dead (known as perinatal deaths). Alarming figures … This was primarily a result of the health system collapse in the 90’s and during the period of conflict, poor economic situation and health culture of vulnerable groups as well as non-evidence-based practices in health institutions.
After 16 years of an intensive work with health professionals at all levels these figures managed to be lowered by today. In the last perinatal report for 2014, 324 perinatal deaths were reported. Thus there is a reduction of infant mortality by more than threefold and in the recent years thousands of infants’ lives have been saved and are now healthy children of Kosovo.
Besides the contributing to the maternal and child healthcare, WHO, during its engagement in Kosovo since 1998 has made a special contribution to the development of health policies and strategies and capacity building in primary health care / family medicine, emergency medical services, environmental health, mental health, promotion health schools, the vaccination system, contagious and non-contagious disease control system, education and health promotion.
Despite of reduction on the infant mortality in Kosovo, the imunissation system and mental health reform can be considered as success stories, the people of Kosovo and their health continues to be jeopardised seriously by a non-safe environment (air, water and food) as well as health risk behaviors such as smoking, drug abuse, insufficient physical activity and unhealthy eating habits. When added to the high rate poverty, social inequalities and unconsolidated health system, it is not a coincidence that the Kosovars life longevity is among the lowest in the European region.
The main causes of death in Kosovo are heart and blood vessel diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes. A large proportion of premature deaths caused by the above mentioned diseases is evitable: estimates show that at least 80% of all heart diseases, strokes and type 2 diabetes and at least one third of cancer cases are preventable.
Kosovars health can and should be improved by addressing basic environmental factors that lead to health hazards besides improving the culture, education and health promotion, health investment through lifelong approach and empowerment of individuals as well as additional investments in health system reforms and professional healthcare system governance.
It is the last call for all of us to take further steps regarding health. This move implies both our physical and intellectual mobility. This can become a reality when health has the comprehensive approach for the society. This approach overpasses institutions; it mobilizes local culture and media, urban and rural communities, as well as all important state sectors such as education system, transportation sector, urban planning and environment, obesity and food and nutrition system. By engaging the private sector, civil society, communities and individuals, the “whole society” approach can strengthen communities to cope with threats to health.
However, leaders of the institutions should work harder to create preconditions and a supportive environment for health improval of Kosovars. The call made to all the leaders of the European Union countries under “Health 2020” should be relevant to Kosovo context, too.
“Dear Prime Minister, Minister, Mayor or Member of Parliament,
Good health supports social and economic development and strengthens policies in all sectors. All sectors and levels of government contribute to good health. Your leadership for the health and well-being can make a tremendous change to the people of your country, region or town. Your support for Health 2020 framework is really essential. “
<b>Background on Health 2020</b>
“53 countries of the European Region, at the conference of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, adopted a new framework of health policies for the Region based on the values and evidences, Health 2020. Health 2020 focuses on improving health for all and reducing health inequalities through improving management and governance with a view on health. It focuses on major health problems up to date. It identifies four priority areas to be intervened in terms of policies and is innovative in terms of commitment by all Governmental and societal levels and sectors. It highlights resource development and renewal within communities, strengthening and creating supportive environments. It details roles of strengthened public health services and the health system. Health 2020 was adopted in two forms: as a European policy framework in support of the government and society measures for politicians and policy-makers and as the broader framework of health policies and Health 2020 Strategy, which provides more technical details. Implementation of Health 2020 is now the main priority challenge for the region.”
Author is head of WHO Office in Pristina