During the Sixty-Ninth World Health Assembly in Geneva, the event “Health in All Policies for Sustainable Development
Goals achievement” was held, hosted by the Federal Ministry of Health of the Republic of Sudan, in coordination with Ministry of Health of Thailand and Ministry of Health of Finland. This event provided an opportunity to share country experiences in translating a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach into concrete tools, mechanism and cross-sectoral actions, and to discuss how intersectoral action can contribute to the achievement of the health and other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national and global level.
The meeting was chaired by His Excellency Mr Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, Federal Minister of Health - Sudan, who opened the meeting by outlining the historical milestones of health promotion and the HiAP approach, underlining the importance of taking stock of the lessons learned from country experiences in the context of the 2030 SDGs agenda. The panel not only provided country experiences from New Zealand, Chile, Finland, Sudan and Thailand but also from academia, civil society and WHO representatives.
The plenary discussion further unpacked critical issues, exploring the importance of moving health into “high politics” as an overarching governmental priority. Strengthening health literacy for local, national and international stakeholders and learning to “speak the language” of other sectors will be crucial in advancing this agenda. His Excellency Mr. Abugarda rap up and recommended to develop a network for HiAP between these countries, civil society organizations, academia and WHO with an aim to continue this effort and share experiences; and to have annual assessment during World Health Assembly to look at the improvement and to ensure sustainability.
Lessons from the country experiences
National panellists provided rich descriptions of diverse country experiences from cross-governmental policy approach focused on rheumatic fever and healthy homes; early childhood development; and achieving universal health care and how these involved education and social affairs sectors as well as municipal governments to provide a range of health and social services and resources.
Also examples of the systematic institutionalization and legislation of intersectoral efforts for improving health and equity were explained. These included the importance of long-term political leadership and commitment; building health capacity, literacy and expertise for advocacy and partnership; institutionalizing intersectoral legislation, structures and processes; and ensuring monitoring and evaluation for strong accountability.
With the motto “triangle that moves the mountain” Thai expert stressed importance of engaging social, policy/political and technical actors in upstream processes as well as the challenges of implementing “win-lose” resolutions and policies, such as those related to trade or the elimination of asbestos use.
Professor Ilona Kickbusch, The Graduate Institute Geneva, emphasized the centrality of equity with the HiAP approach and as a means of holding State and other actors accountable in obligations to ensure the health, wellbeing and participation and empowerment of citizens. She encouraged contributions to the draft zero of the declaration of the 9th Health Promotion Conference in Shanghai, China in November 2016. The Declaration presents an opportunity to position health promotion and HiAP as central for ensuring coordinated action to achieve the 17 integrated and indivisible SDGs, and emphasise the inextricable link between sustainability of our health and health systems with the health and sustainability of the planet.
People`s Health Movement provided a civil society perspective and pointed to the importance of tackling the impacts and harms for health and equity of the prevailing economic model and globalisation. Health and social actors are called to embrace their responsibility to examine and advocate for the democratization of public goods and spaces, including uniting for issues beyond the national level: advocating for the supranational legislation for human rights and standards; protecting the regulation of those standards in trade and other international agreements and the redistribution of wealth and resources.
Sharing the WHO perspective, Dr Maria Neira noted that the SDGs presents an opportunity to strengthen capacities for public health and primary prevention. This means querying, for example, the allocation of resources to better fund primary prevention and health promoting environments. She asked whether the global health community was prepared and sufficiently equipped to ensure health is positioned at the heart of the SDGs, and how to build conviction and capacity to pursue intersectoriality as the way forward.