The 19 commissioners of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development convened virtually on 27 October 2020 to agree on the major themes and roadmap that will guide their work under the chairmanship of Professor Mario Monti.
The Commission, comprising leaders from the political, financial, economic, social, policy and medical spheres across the WHO European Region, was established to deliver recommendations on investments and reforms to improve the resilience of health- and social-care systems. Its mandate is to rethink policy priorities in the light of pandemics so that societies will be better able to cope with future health threats and other crises.
Opening the second meeting of the Commission, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, referred to the strong support expressed by Member States for its establishment. He underlined that the Commission’s work will contribute to delivering the European Programme of Work (2020–2025), which was endorsed at the 70th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe last month.
Establishing the Scientific Advisory Board
Scientific Coordinator Professor Elias Mossialos briefed commissioners on the setting up of the Scientific Advisory Board. The Board will bring together scientific experts from the Region to establish the evidence base and to present priorities and policy options within the health- and social-care fields for the Commission’s consideration. It will also synthesize material produced regarding other cross-sectoral issues and lead on report writing. The Board will meet for the first time on 6 November 2020.
Harnessing interdisciplinary experience
The commissioners considered the framework within which they will provide their recommendations, and discussed a roadmap to deliver their work in the coming months. They noted that the Commission’s unique value is in bringing together comprehensive, interdisciplinary and intersectoral experience and expertise.
They agreed on collaborating in working groups covering the following thematic areas:
- international governance for health
- governments, state capacity and societal resilience
- economic outlook and financial instruments for sustainability
- environment, animal and human activities (One Health)
- political infrastructure and the role of science in policy-making
- innovation and digital transformation.
During the rich debate on next steps, commissioners recognized that the current situation offers a unique open door for politicians to reform the health- and social-care sectors. For the Commission to make use of this opportunity, its recommendations must be timely, concrete and actionable, but must also have a broad, thorough scope. These proposals will be targeted at the highest levels of political decision-makers, landing on the desks of prime ministers and heads of state.
The Commission also noted the importance of finding ways to engage the public, civil society and relevant stakeholders to further resource sustainable solutions.
Common themes emerging in the subsequent discussions included the importance of harnessing new technologies; gathering best practices from across the globe; acknowledging the current socioeconomic strains and politicized climate that health authorities and governments are navigating; taking account of environmental pressures; and considering the unequal impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups.
In conclusion, Professor Monti expressed his appreciation for the commissioners’ invaluable insights and commitment. The working groups will be established in the coming days, and the Scientific Advisory Board will meet in early November. The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled for December 2020.