WHO and UNESCO experts explore the linkages between culture, health and well-being

WHO meeting at UNESCO headquarters
WHO meeting at UNESCO headquarters

The 2003 Convention’s new Operational Directives related to sustainable development encourage States Parties to safeguard health practices recognized by communities as living heritage and harness their potential to achieve quality health care for all. In parallel, a growing number of voices in the public health community have been calling for the need to reconsider the important role that culture plays in the provisioning of equitable health care. Most notably, in 2014, the Lancet Commission argued that the systematic neglect of culture is the single biggest barrier to advancing the highest attainable standard of health worldwide.

Following two initial expert meetings held at WHO Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen (Denmark) in 2015 and 2016, UNESCO hosted the third expert group meeting from 13 to 14 March 2017 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The meeting gathered 29 experts from the health-related humanities and social sciences, as well as experts from public health, WHO and UNESCO, to reflect on the intersection of culture, health and well-being. Discussions revolved around ways to enhance public health policy-making taking into consideration participative methods, such as community based inventorying for health related knowledge and practices, etc.

This series of expert group meetings is part of a wider initiative launched by WHO in response to a call by the Member States in Europe for more locally grounded and culturally sensitive approaches to health. The project seeks to build a platform for research and information sharing, to support the implementation of Health 2020, the European policy framework for health and well-being.