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11 July 2007 | Printer friendly

Intergovernmental Midterm Review (IMR), Vienna 13-15 June 2007

Countries support WHO Children’s Environment and Health Action Plan to 2009 and beyond

After a three day meeting of representatives from both health and environment ministries at the Vienna Intergovernmental Midterm Review (IMR) conference (13-15 June 2007), it was clear that the Pan-European Environment and Health process led by WHO Europe has huge support from all concerned.

Governments from the 53 countries of the European Region presented their progress to date and highlighted projects in the area of children’s environmental health. The NGO community reported back on progress made to date, solutions and recommendations for the way forward. The NGO community also handed out awards for some of the best projects shown to improve children’s health by enhancing their physical environment and reducing respiratory disease, reducing exposures to harmful chemicals, increasing access to better water and sanitation and preventing accidents and injuries. Read more on the CEHAPE Awards.

Two major outcomes were presented at the conference:

- A new report on Environmental Burden of Disease: Country profiles : the report features country data on the burden of disease that is preventable through healthier environments. The country profiles provide an overview of summary information on selected parameters that describe the environmental health situation of a country, as well as a preliminary estimate of health impacts caused by environmental risks. The new data show that 13 million deaths worldwide could be prevented every year by making environments healthier. The report also indicates that well-tested environmental health interventions could reduce total deaths in the countries of the WHO European Region by almost 20%. Read the press release.

- A Baseline Assessment of Children’s Health and Environment in Europe: the report summarizes information on health and environment gathered by the European Environment and Health Information System - ENHIS. The information is aggregated in the form of 26 indicators selected on the basis of their policy relevance and scientific reliability. The "baseline assessment" provides a first evaluation of the status and trends of the priority environment and health issues specified in CEHAPE and illustrates the large disparities in health-related environmental conditions both between parts of the WHO European region and between populations within Member States. A ranking of countries (link to electronic version) on the basis of CEHAPE indicators was also presented.

What comes next?

There were calls for the process to continue but it was made clear that political support was lacking and more effort to explain the importance of children’s environmental health was necessary. While the EU countries have come some way in being able to measure progress with the use of indicators, there was a call for “solidarity” with other European countries to enable all countries to ensure they have the resources and tools necessary to make concrete progress.

There was a definitive call for implementation of better primary prevention policy in the health sector as reflected in the European Commission’s mid-term review of the EU action plan on environment and health and vice-versa with Health in All Policies processes. There were calls from many members to now take what they know to other Ministries including those of transport, energy, finance and development to ensure a holistic approach to solving the increasing rates of disease we see across Europe.

Topics highlighted for importance to be discussed in Italy in 2009 include climate change and health, chemicals, children’s health and the links between biodiversity and health.

Finally, member states highlighted the importance of having youth and civil society involved in an open and transparent process.

- WHO press release and link to full report

- Comparative country by country table Preventable environmental impact on mortality and morbidity in countries of the WHO European Region

- Country profiles of the environmental burden of disease (2007)

Ranking of countries on CEHAPE indicators

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