A meeting between ministers of health and other high-level government officials in Istanbul resulted in an agreement between European countries to invest in learning, support, and monitoring of health in order to increase current levels of health emergency preparedness in the World Health Organization European Region.
Over 150 European representatives attended the meeting on 12–14 February 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. Together, the delegates from the European countries agreed to speed up coordinated action in order to protect people from any kind of health-related emergencies in the form of an Action plan.
“This meeting shows that we have unprecedented momentum to translate our political commitments into action,” said Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of Programme Management and Director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases at WHO/Europe.
“No single organization, no single sector and no single country can do it alone; we need everybody on board for joint action and accountability, and we need to make sure that all sectors and all parts of society, including communities, are part of the solution,” she said.
Recent outbreaks of Zika and Ebola viruses show how easily disease can spread across borders, causing countries and regions to become involved in an epidemics. Even the countries who do not see any cases of the virus may find themselves in the position of giving aid to countries with health crises, or may find themselves locked down to quarantine any appearance of the virus.
So far, it appears that European health systems are capable of dealing with these kinds of threats. But offering health care to new arrivals can be beneficial in preventing future outbreaks, and the partnership between Turkey and WHO indicates how successful health care offered to migrants and refugees can be at preventing epidemics and panic.
West Nile virus and measles are still concerns to the European region, as well as antimicrobial resistance, natural disasters, infections from contaminated food and water, conflicts, and terrorist attacks.
The Action Plan signed by the European health delegates hopes to tackle these issues prematurely so that if a flood does happen or an outbreak of measles occurs, countries will be prepared to handle it effectively and efficiently before the damage spreads. This will save lives, protect populations, and strengthen health systems.