Vilnius adopts a declaration / recommendation for all EU governments

Yesterday in Vilnius the so-called Vilnius Declaration where governments of the European Union Member States are called for immediate action to ensure sustainable Health Care sector development was adopted. It was the concluding point of an event – Health Forum annual Conference ‘Sustainable Health Systems for Inclusive Growth in Europe’ held under the auspices of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Conference started on November 19th and continued its work yesterday. At the session “Health and Health Care Inequalities in Europe”, inequalities in the health of the population and the main underlying reasons, i.e. social and economic factors, unhealthy lifestyles, physical and work environment, were discussed. Also, the session touched upon such issues as an adverse effect of austerity measures on population health indicators and accessibility to high-quality health care services.

At the session “Improving Health-System Productivity”, key focus was on the necessity of a wise use of the available financial resources, and the examples of successful reforms were presented. The session participants discussed issues of the importance of health systems for reducing inequalities and stressed the necessity of innovations for growth.

The two plenary sessions were complemented by other parallel sessions. Discussions at the first two of them – “Determinants of Health Inequalities and Effects of Health Inequalities” (the latter moderated by Mr. Anders Olauson, President of the European Patient Forum) – were on health inequalities, the determinants and their effects. The other two sessions were: “Addressing Inequalities through Health Systems” and “Effective Innovation for Sustainable Growth”.

In parallel to the discussions, a working group summarised the main outcomes of the conference and, taking into account the recommendations of the 4th Annual European Public Health Alliance Conference and the European Health Forum Gastein as well as the WHO Ministerial Conference in Tallinn, also, based on all said documents, drafted a joint declaration.

Before the presentation of the declaration at a closing plenary Sustainable Health Systems for the Future, a speech was made by Mr. Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health, who paid a special visit to Vilnius on this occasion.

Having mentioned the main challenges of the health system and after presenting the good practice examples in various countries, the Commissioner stressed three in his opinion main lessons learnt.    First, health systems funding should be as sustainable as possible and protected by measures introduced. Second, we need solidarity to insure that health is for all, not just for those who can afford it. ‘This means sharing the risk of health  costs among young and old, healthy and sick, rich and not so rich, working and unemployed and between present and future generations. Skills must be sufficiently balanced to cover all people needs from primary to health care in hospital’ enumerated Commissioner T. Borg. And thirdly, he said, we need transparent pricing for health sector.

‘These are the key challenges we have for health system (others call them problems, I say challenges). We have to clear them and adapt to the needs of citizens now and for generations that come. The good news is that we have a policy framework and operational tools that help us succeed in this regard. So we have the tools, let us just to do this job. We ensure to do all that we can do to foster a good quality health care accessible to long-term and sustainable systems,’ Commissioner T. Borg said.

At the close of the Conference, Vilnius Declaration (Call for Action) was adopted.

 ‘We call on European governments and the European Union to take immediate action:

  • To increase investment in health promotion and disease prevention;
  • To ensure universal access to high quality people-centred health services;
  • To ensure that health system reforms including workforce planning are evidence-based and focus on cost-effectiveness, sustainability and good governance,’ these are the main statements in the Declaration.


All European leaders are called to work together to help ensure that European health systems are people-centred, sustainable and inclusive, and deliver good health for all.

The Declaration will be presented to the participants of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting that will take place on December 9th this year.   


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Vaida Samuolytė

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