WHO Rome office closes at the end of 2011 - Work on environment and health continues from other European locations

Date

20 Dec 2011

Sections

Health & Consumers

The Rome office of the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health is due to close at the end of December 2011. WHO’s work on environment and health in Europe remains a priority and is being consolidated in Bonn, Germany and Copenhagen, Denmark. This will allow the WHO Regional Office for Europe to maintain and strengthen its technical capacities in this area for the benefit of the 53 Member States of the European Region.

The presence of the Rome office in Italy was regulated by an agreement between the Italian Government and WHO/Europe. The agreement was renewed in 2007 by the Italian ministers of health and environment on behalf of the Italian Government. In spring 2011, however, the former Italian Government informed WHO/Europe that owing to changes in its priorities, it would no longer be in a position to continue its support.

“While we regret the closure of the WHO Rome office, we would like to express our gratitude for the critical support provided by Italy during the 20 years of activity of the office, since its opening in 1991. The excellent collaboration that exists with numerous Italian institutions will continue under the new arrangements,” said Ms Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “We also highly appreciate the additional support that the German Government has provided, recognizing that this is a valuable opportunity to consolidate WHO/Europe’s work on environment and health.”

The Italian support has contributed to WHO’s achieving its goals of helping European countries to address the challenges of environmental factors to health. The Rome office has been instrumental in bringing the importance of environmental determinants of health to the forefront of the public health agenda in collaboration with many countries over the past decades.

Background

Since the late 1980s, when the First European Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health took place, there has been a need to facilitate dialogue between the health and environment ministers and other sectors. This dialogue, discussion and policy-making led to what is known as the European environment and health process (EEHP), which has been in place for over 20 years.

In 1991, recognizing the need for more of an evidence base for the EEHP, WHO/Europe accepted the Italian Government’s offer to set up the European Centre for Environment and Health (ECEH) in Rome. Since then the ECEH in Rome has operated as a centre of scientific excellence, providing European Member States with the latest evidence on the nature and magnitude of existing and emerging environmental health risks, and assisting them in identifying and implementing policies to address these risks.

Ten years later, and with the generous support of the German Government, another ECEH office was opened in Bonn, expanding the Centre’s technical capacity. Over its 20 years of existence, the ECEH has had offices also in Nancy, France and Bilthoven, the Netherlands.

Five ministerial conferences have taken place to date to ensure political commitment from all European countries at the highest level to address environmental hazards and to lead policy development and action. The last ministerial conference took place in Parma, Italy in 2010 and was hosted by the Italian Government. Through the ECEH, WHO/Europe provides scientific and organizational support to this process. This includes developing and compiling the scientific evidence underpinning the political agenda of the conferences and coordinating the participation and contributions of all key partners.

The Rome office of the ECEH addressed specific environmental hazards to health, such as through water quality or food safety, the prevention of violence and injuries, and the health dimension of policy decisions in other sectors such as transport or energy that influence environmental quality, and emerging threats such as climate change. It also supported countries in building up and implementing methods for the integrated assessment of the health effects of policy interventions, so as to identify potential risks to health from different options, as well as to manage and mitigate their effects. It paid particular attention to communication, both through traditional media and Internet-based platforms, and assisted countries in addressing numerous environment and health emergencies.

This work will now continue in the ECEH’s Bonn office, with managerial and strategic support provided by WHO/Europe’s head office in Copenhagen.

For further information, contact:

PRESS INFORMATION

Ms Cristiana Salvi

Technical Officer, Communication

WHO Regional Office for Europe

Via Francesco Crispi 10, I-00187 Rome, Italy

Tel.: +39 06 4877543, +39 348 0192305 (mobile)

Fax: +39 06 4877599

E-mail: csa@ecr.euro.who.int


TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Ms Francesca Racioppi

Acting Head, Rome office

WHO Regional Office for Europe

Via Francesco Crispi, 10, I-00187 Rome, Italy

Tel.: +39 06 4877545

Fax: +39 06 4877599

E-mail: frr@ecr.euro.who.int