Following an unprecedented year for WHO in 2020, WHO/Europe looks ahead to 2021 with a focus on the continuing COVID-19 pandemic alongside the implementation of the European Programme of Work.
With the ongoing roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and WHO/Europe continuing to provide support in response to the pandemic, this area of work remains a priority. But alongside the pandemic, WHO/Europe offers support and expertise in a many areas to assist countries and partners in delivering health to everyone living in the WHO European Region.
This article highlights a select range of important milestones and upcoming events over the course of the year.
International Year of Health and Care Workers (1 January–31 December)
WHO has designated 2021 the International Year of Health and Care Workers (YHCW) in recognition of their dedication to providing care during and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which has challenged health systems worldwide. Throughout 2021, WHO/Europe will take part in the celebrations, recognizing the vital work of health and care workers around the Region.
Launch of HEN report on screening for cardiovascular disease (19 January)
Population-level screening for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors has no effect on lowering CVD morbidity and mortality, according to a WHO Health Evidence Network (HEN) report. CVDs are the main cause of death globally, killing an estimated 17 million people each year. This HEN synthesis report is part of WHO’s initiative to increase the effectiveness of screening, maximize benefits and minimize harm, and is aimed at improving understanding of the effectiveness of systematic population-level screening programmes in reducing the burden of CVD.
World Cancer Day (4 February)
On World Cancer Day, WHO/Europe called for a pan-European movement, United Action Against Cancer – seeking to unite everyone towards better cancer control and prevention. The vision of this initiative is a Region where cancer is no longer a life-threatening disease. World Cancer Day takes place each year in collaboration with governmental and nongovernmental organizations and other partners.
World Tuberculosis Day (24 March)
Each year we mark World Tuberculosis Day to raise awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB). Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.3 includes TB as one of several epidemics to be ended by 2030. This year the campaign will put special emphasis on the importance of testing, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, so that TB patients can get treatment and eliminate the possibility of passing the disease on to others.
Oslo Medicines Initiative: focus on solidarity, transparency and sustainability
A series of webinars, starting from March 2021, will explore key issues in improving access to novel, high-priced medicines. The discussions will be supported by background documents reflecting on the themes of solidarity, transparency and sustainability. These sessions are being organized as part of the Oslo Medicines Initiative, which aims to provide a neutral platform for the public and private sectors to jointly outline a vision for equitable and sustainable access to effective, innovative and affordable medicines.
An in-person meeting will be planned for spring 2022 to outline a new vision for collaboration to improve access to novel medicines in the European Region.
World Health Day (7 April)
This year, World Health Day will focus on the theme of reducing inequities. COVID-19 is just the latest example of why WHO is so focused on achieving Health for All – supporting the creation of social, economic and environmental conditions that allow people to fulfil their health potential, improving access to health services and ensuring that those services are available everywhere and to everyone. This year’s World Health Day campaign will call for everyone to work together towards ending health inequities and creating a fairer, healthier world.
European Immunization Week (26 April–2 May)
This year’s European Immunization Week takes on a special significance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With continued rollout of vaccines across the European Region, this year’s campaign will focus on raising awareness and answering questions about the available vaccines and WHO’s role in ensuring that they are distributed equitably.
Fifth High-Level Meeting on Transport, Health and Environment (17–18 May)
WHO/Europe carries out most of its activities on transport and health within the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), jointly with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. At the Fifth High-Level Meeting, to be virtually hosted by the Government of Austria, delegates from across the European Region are expected to welcome new recommendations for green and healthy sustainable transport and the first ever pan-European master plan for cycling promotion, among others.
World Health Assembly (24 May–1 June)
Delegates from around the world will gather in Geneva for the 74th World Health Assembly. This annual meeting determines the policies of WHO, including financial policy, while reviewing and approving the proposed programme budget.
Launch of the global update to the WHO Air Quality Guidelines
The last edition of the WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) for ambient air pollutants was published in 2006, and included recommendations on the “classical” air pollutants, particulate matter (PM), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) and sulfur dioxide (SO₂). Since then, the evidence base for adverse health effects related to short- and long-term exposure to these pollutants has become much broader. Since 2016, WHO has been working on an update of the global AQGs, which is expected to be published in June 2020. It is expected to provide up-to-date recommendations to continue protecting populations worldwide from the adverse health effects of air pollution.
World Hepatitis Day (28 July)
In 2020, World Hepatitis Day highlighted the need to find the “missing millions” – people living with hepatitis who with early treatment can avoid more severe illness. 2021 marks the start of a decade of elimination – part of the SDG target to end epidemics including hepatitis by 2030.
71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe
In September, delegates representing Member States and partners will gather either in person or online for the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (RC71), marking 12 months since the endorsement of the European Programme of Work. RC71 will take place in Copenhagen with a focus on: primary health care, Immunization Agenda 2030 and COVID-19, including the lessons learned from the pandemic and the report of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development.
Launch of the report of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development (9 September)
The Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, chaired by Professor Mario Monti, will hold its final plenary session to officially launch the Commission report featuring key recommendations to Member States. The Commission will draw lessons from the ways in which different countries’ health systems have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendations, which target the highest policy-makers in governments, will focus on investments and structural reforms to improve the resilience of health and social care systems.
Flu Awareness Campaign
The annual Flu Awareness Campaign marks the beginning of seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns in the European Region, providing health promotion materials and the latest evidence and advice for partners in countries.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week
This week-long event celebrates the precious resource that antimicrobials represent for human health. Communications campaigns and technical events increase awareness about antimicrobial resistance and encourage best practice among health workers and the public.
World AIDS Day
Each year, on World AIDS Day, people and organizations all over the world show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.