Group photo with all participants, including Luxembourg Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert (fourth from right), and Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel (centre); Credit: ©SIP/Julien Warnand

From Wednesday 10 to Friday 12 May 2023, Luxembourg hosted the ministers and delegations of the World Health Organization (WHO) Small Countries initiative (SCI) on the occasion of the high-level meeting’s ninth edition.

This year's edition marked the tenth anniversary of the SCI and the first phase of implementation of the “Roadmap to better health in small countries in the WHO European Region, 2022–2025”.

The main themes addressed during the conference were digitalisation, mental health, equity and the development of human resources in the field of health.

Small countries share common characteristics, and as the Luxembourg Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert, said: "As small states, we don't have the same resources as larger countries and we thus have to be more flexible in finding solutions in our health policies”.

At the end of this meeting, the SCI Member States signed the "Luxembourg Statement" committing themselves to continue their progress in improving the health and well-being of populations. This statement presents in more detail the efforts and actions to be made in health areas relating to the small Member States of the WHO European region such as:

• limit non-communicable diseases, caused by tobacco, unhealthy diet, hypertension, etc.;
• facilitate access to drugs;
• focus more efforts on mental health;
• strengthen personnel working in the health sector;
• continue to advance digital health literacy.

On Friday 12 May 2023, on the occasion of International Nurses Day, a specific discussion took place on this subject during the high-level meeting of the SCI. This exchange was an opportunity to emphasise the efforts to be made in terms of recruiting personnel in the health sector. Luxembourg is already involved in this subject through the implementation of the “Healthcareers” campaign. This aims to promote the professions of health professionals and to attract more young people to the health professions and thus ultimately increase the number of staff in this sector.

The SCI is a network of eleven European countries with two million or less inhabitants: Andorra, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Slovenia. For the ninth edition in Luxembourg, ministers and delegations from five other observer countries were invited to the meeting: Seychelles, North Macedonia, Bhutan, Barbados and Moldova.

This high-level meeting takes place each year in a different Member State. Since its launch in 2014, the SCI has offered them a place to come together to find solutions to health-related needs and vulnerabilities.