Dear fellow Ministers of Health,
Our health systems have continually improved over the last decades, both in terms of investment and outcomes. Many actors of all kind have put tireless effort in their work. Nevertheless COVID-19 has firmly put us with our feet on the ground and reminded us that a number of fundamental challenges remain. These challenges include issues of prevention and health promotion, mental health, access and health inequalities, the pressure on workforce, surge capacity and the supply chain of medical goods. If we want to make our health systems future-proof, we must take these challenges seriously, especially in the context of a rapidly changing world and overarching technological and climate-related shifts.
OECD estimates that on average countries will need to increase health expenditure by 1,4% of GDP to make our health systems more resilient. Yet, investment needs to be targeted and evidence-based. Societies and our colleagues in government and the legislative bodies rightly expect us that requests for additional funding be grounded on evidence of the effectiveness of policies.
As a Belgian minister of Health and Deputy Prime minister, I’m honoured to chair the Health Committee at Ministerial Level, to do just that: exchange on effective policies. Based on the preparatory work done by OECD, the Health Ministerial will focus on highly critical issues like healthy populations, digitalization of care, strengthening mental health, pharmaceutical policies that respond to our systems real needs, and developing a healthy, flexible and future-proof workforce. The preceding Policy Forum will focus on the important issue of making our health system ever more patient-centred.
The results of the ministerial meeting will help each of us to improve our policies and strengthen our case for continued investments in public health and healthcare. They will provide for the basis of the work programme for the Health Committee and the activities of the OECD Secretariat for the next 5 years. And finally, I hope that the results of the ministerial meeting will also stimulate our work on the EU agenda on health under the Belgian EU Council presidency.
I want to thank the OECD for their strong professionalism and support of our countries. And I look forward to seeing each of you at the Health Ministerial on January 23rd 2024 and the Policy Forum that will take place the day before.