Health strategy outlined in Minsk
New approaches to health care issues discussed at National Olympic Committee headquarters
Conference participants in action
The President of Belarus met foreign guests at the event in Minsk, which was the first top-level medical forum for the capital, in terms of geography and number of participants. Around 200 VIP guests travelled from over 30 countries to come to Belarus. On the eve of the conference, Alexander Lukashenko met the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, who noted great interest in Belarusian achievements in the field of healthcare. She believes that these are gaining a global reputation among foreign specialists, who are keen to tour centres and clinics.
The Health-2020 strategy (developed in 2012) envisages investments into health at all stages of life, from birth. It aims to strengthen the healthcare system and ensure accessibility to all layers of society. In this respect, our country can act as an example. Some time ago, the situation was different, since the early years of independence saw Belarus facing serious difficulties. Hospitals and polyclinics lacked medicines, qualified staff and finances. It was a challenge to persuade qualified medical professionals to move to the regions and the situation was especially acute in rural areas.
As a result, the birth rate fell and mortality figures rose. However, unlike other post-Soviet republics, Belarus did not pursue a path of market reform, focusing on giving ordinary people equal access to medical services. “In Belarus, people are not left dying by the roadside if they have no insurance. We treat everyone,” Mr. Lukashenko stresses.
The country spends a great deal on health care; last year, almost 6 percent of its GDP. In addition, sponsors also make significant financial contributions. Over the past five years, over 130 medical sites have launched, and 17 Republican scientific-practical centres operate, worthily rivalling foreign institutions. Our doctors can perform the most complicated operations — including in the field of cardio-surgery and organ and tissue transplantation.
Gradual modernisation has been evident, as has the construction of new sites and the use of the latest high-tech equipment, producing significant results. Even most advanced states envy us in this respect. Belarus is among the top five countries for low infant and maternal mortality — behind Germany, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland. This year, not a single case of maternal mortality has been registered so far.
As regards tuberculosis, Belarus is ahead of Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Norway. Meanwhile, our country ensures the same access to medical services as Canada. The country has almost closed the ‘demographic scissors’. Since 2006, our birth rate has risen to 12.5 per capita, with a steadily falling mortality coefficient and production of new medicines.
Of course, health care responsibility is of primary importance, and Belarus is working to overcome the ill effects of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, hypodynamia and non-balanced nutrition. Mr. Lukashenko believes the nation’s health directly depends on the level of our physical culture development and has set ambitious tasks. He stresses, “We need to ensure that up to 40 percent of the population take part in sports. A healthy lifestyle will become Belarus’ calling card.”
Truly, the nation’s health is not just a social imperative but affects our demographic and economic security. With this in mind, Belarus fully supports WHO initiatives. Our success within the Health-2020 programme is globally acknowledged.
It was interesting to find out conference participants’ impressions. Latvia’s Health Minister, Guntis Belevics, commented, “We originate from a single country but chose different paths after its collapse. In 2008, the crisis broke and we had to sharply cut our health care expenditure. We’re yet to restore the previous level, with Latvia allocating half the amount that Belarus does. Our people have to pay for a great deal themselves and we only produce five percent of our own medicines, having to import the rest. Meanwhile, you’ve increased your own production to 51 percent. Belarus should be rightly proud.”
Helsinki University Professor Ever Karienti added, “Health care in Belarus and Finland hardly differs. Probably, we have more experience in developing some medical services. However, as regards key indicators, you’ve been productive. Belarus stands well within the international arena, as can be confirmed by any foreign expert.”
The Minsk event allowed discussion of new ideas and developments with European colleagues. A co-ordinated approach has been laid out within the Minsk Declaration: to become an important instrument in realising the Health-2020 European policy.
All over the world, non-infectious diseases are causing death among the active, employable population, negatively affecting society to an extent similar to a political or economic crisis. Disease has no borders and, with this in mind, we must fight it jointly, assisting each other in finding efficient and forward-thinking measures. It’s always easier, and more fruitful to act together.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe:
WHO-Belarus co-operation is developing well. Political aspects do matter and we are convinced that Belarus has made the correct political choice in investing into health care. We advocate for universal access to medical services. This is a dream for many states but is already a reality for Belarus. At the conference, we’ll jointly decide what more should be done to fight oncological and respiratory diseases and tobacco abuse: challenges faced by the whole globe.
By Alexander Pimenov