WHO/European policy dialogues have shaped the process of health system reform in Central Asia.

The WHO/Europe Roadmap has seen recent progress in a series of national and regional high-level policy discussions in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The series aims to support countries in Central Asia as they address the underlying causes of ill health and improve their health systems.

The policy discussions focused on areas where improvements could be made over the course of 2 weeks: drug availability and mental health reform at the provincial level and health financing and human resources at the national level in Tajikistan.

“The Central Asian Region is a key pillar of our work in WHO/Europe, and it is at the heart of our European work program to leave no one behind and support countries on their journey to universal health coverage,” said Dr. Natasha Azzopardi. – Muscat, Director of the World Health Organization / Europe Division of National Health Policies and Systems. “These 3 policy discussions explored concrete solutions to shared challenges, from making sure people can get the medications they need to making mental health services more accessible to everyone.”

Confirming the commitment of WHO/Europe

Access to essential medicines is a basic human right, but the cost of these medicines can be very high. This means some people can’t get the medicine they need, and others face financial hardship or even poverty due to out-of-pocket payments. The first sub-regional discussion discussed how to procure cost-effective medicines, and looked at the impact of out-of-pocket payments on public and private budgets.

The second sub-session focused on mental health, discussing ways to improve mental health services and support in Central Asia. He emphasized the importance of integrating mental health into primary care, promoting community-based care and reducing stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems. There was also an opportunity to meet with delegates from each of the 5 participating countries of the WHO/European Mental Health Flag Group.

Another major challenge is the lack of trained health care professionals in many countries, particularly in Central Asia. According to WHO/Europe data, the subcontinent saw less than the recommended number of health workers per capita. This shortage will have a significant impact on the quality and accessibility of health services, especially in remote and remote areas.

The national dialogue in Tajikistan addressed concrete solutions to these challenges in the country, and coincided with the launch of the first ever national health labor market analysis. The analysis will provide a clear picture of the current supply, distribution and training of health workers and is expected to enable strategic planning to strengthen the health workforce in Tajikistan.

Throughout the discussions, senior WHO/Europe officials met with the Ministers of Health of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and the Ministers of Health and Finance of Tajikistan. Visits to health facilities provided a better understanding of the local health needs for which support is urgent.

Dr. Azzopardi-Muscat said, “We are seeing significant progress in these areas that will affect the health of millions of people across the region.” “At the same time, we will see where more work needs to be done. WHO/Europe remains committed to supporting governments and national authorities as they improve their health systems in this critical post-COVID-19 recovery phase.”

The WHO/Europe Roadmap will build on the health goals and priorities of the 5 Central Asian Republics – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – through the lens of the WHO European Work Programme. Since the launch of the Roadmap, WHO/Europe has provided concrete support to the subcontinent on various health issues. In this new series of policy discussions, the World Health Organization / Europe has focused on strengthening the health system.

The sub-session discussion on access to medicines was held in Almaty, Kazakhstan and co-organized with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. The sub-event on mental health services was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A national policy dialogue on the health workforce was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

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