The health ministries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Tuesday agreed on common plans for developing alcohol, tobacco and healthy eating policies, including the exchange of information related to these issues.
The three Baltic countries are to exchange information and experiences related to imposing restrictions on the accessibility of alcohol, the equalization of tobacco products and engaging in cooperation with the food industry.
The agreed-upon policies will help alleviate th mortality rate associated with noncommunicable diseases in the Baltics, which is still one of the highest in the EU, Estonia's Ministry of Social Affairs said.
Estonian Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski said that Tuesday's meeting in Vilnius confirmed that the three Baltic countries, under the leadership of Lithuania and Estonia, are ready to take ambitious steps toward improving the health of the population and move toward the Nordics when it comes to their national health policies.
"Problems and challenges in public health are similar in all three countries," said Ossinovski. "Implementation of the proposals made by the World Health Organization (WHO), including an increase in excise duty, have helped improve health indicators and decrease illness and death.
"At the same time," he continued, "We are far away from 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 three Baltic countries 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 will be necessary to exchange information and experiences between the three 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, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania emphasized the need for an update of the EU alcohol policy framework with regard to the expiration of the previous strategy in 2012.
A memorandum of understanding is to be signed on June 16, when the ministers of health of all three Baltic states will meet within the framework of the meeting of the European Union Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council.
Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski met with State Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Health Kārlis Ketners and Lithuanian Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga in Vilnius on Tuesday.
Editor: Aili Vahtla