TALLINN – Baltic health ministries at a meeting in Vilnius on Tuesday agreed on common plans for developing alcohol, tobacco and healthy eating policies, which include exchanging information and experiences related to imposing of restrictions on the accessibility of alcohol, equalization of tobacco products and engaging in cooperation with the food industry.
The agreed policies will help to alleviate the mortality rate associated with non-communicable diseases in the Baltics, which is still one of the highest in the European Union, the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs said.
Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Jevgeni Ossinovski said that the meeting confirmed that the three Baltic countries under the leadership of Lithuania and Estonia are ready to take ambitious steps towards improving the health of the population and to move towards the Nordic countries when it comes to their national health policy.
"The problems and challenges in public health are similar in all three countries. Implementation of the proposals made by the World Health Organization, including an increase in excise duty have helped improve health indicators and decrease illness and death," Ossinovski said. "At the same time, we are far away from the Nordic countries, whose social policy and practice to prevent illness are an example for all three Baltic countries. An important area of concern in our region is health-related inequality, or the strong connection of health indicators with gender, education and economic well-being."
The parties also agreed on common plans to develop and implement policies that would lessen alcohol and tobacco consumption and increase healthy eating. To achieve this, it is necessary to exchange information and experiences between the countries, set national restrictions on alcohol advertising and accessibility, equalize all tobacco products and provide for stronger cooperation with the food industry to decrease sugar and salt consumption and make food components healthier. As one of the most important agreements, the Baltic countries emphasized the need for an update of the EU alcohol policy framework with regard to the expiration of the previous strategy in 2012.
The memorandum of understanding is about to be signed on June 16, when the health ministers of the Baltic countries will meet within the framework of the meeting of the European Union Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council.
Minister of Health and Labor Jevgeni Ossinovski met in Vilnius on Wednesday with Lithuanian Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga and Karlis Ketners, state secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Health.