Social determinants of health

WHO AFRO commits to implementing Health in All Policies approach

Participants of the WHO AFRO meeting on Health in All Policies

Last May 14-16, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) gathered policymakers and experts from twelve Eastern and Southern African countries to discuss how Health in All Policies (HiAP) can be implemented at the national level in order to achieve health equity.

Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the meeting was also attended by experts from WHO Headquarters and the Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) who shared experiences on implementing intersectoral action for health and learnings for applying a Health in All Policies approach.

The discussions revolved around a draft analytic framework for intersectoral action and Health in All Policies developed jointly by the WHO Headquarters, AFRO, SEARO, and the Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO). In addition, the status of HiAP implementation in the African Region was reviewed, while a regional position statement was also drafted, highlighting key principles for implementing HiAP in the context of AFRO.

Opening the meeting, the WHO Country Representative in South Africa, Dr. Sarah Barber, noted that health outcomes are increasingly vulnerable to policies made outside of the health sector. Hence, WHO has called for a whole-of-government approach in which policies across all sectors are assessed in terms of their impact on health.

Dr. Davison Munodawafa, AFRO’s Regional Advisor on Social Determinants of Health, also shared that the African Region is in the process of establishing an Advisory Panel on Social Determinants of Health. The panel is expected to provide technical guidance and political momentum for the implementation of HiAP in the region.

Nicole Valentine from the WHO Headquarters indicated that it is important that cross-WHO and UN-wide support be provided in order for countries to seize the momentum from the upcoming 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion (healthpromotion2013.org), with the theme “Health in All Policies,” to rapidly establish the HiAP approach at the levels appropriate to their context.

“The HiAP approach will play an important role in implementing public health in the 21st century. It will also contribute to more efficient and equitable health systems, as envisaged in the goals of Universal Health Coverage,” emphasizes Nicole Valentine.

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