In the past year, the role of health governance and leadership has been in the spotlight as the effect of health leaders’ decisions have been observed and scrutinised. Countries, health systems and leaders around the world have faced the same challenge, COVID-19, but were not affected in the same way and did not all respond in the same way. This has sparked conversations about governance for a healthy population, governance models and leadership styles. 

In their 16 policy recommendations to strengthen the health system response to COVID-19, the WHO European Region included ‘Ensure clarity in roles, relationships and coordination mechanisms in health system governance and across government’. This recommendation addresses the need for transparency to cultivate trust and cooperation by the public and health professionals, to establish bodies to support the exchange of information and coordination across all levels and areas of the health system, and to ensure that communications is maintained with other sectors (example: finance, economy, labour, education and social services) to not only ensure that health is taken into consideration in all their policies, but for their policies to complement and support the health decisions (1).  

As important as this recommendation is, the notions of transparency, communication, cooperation, trust, one health/health in all policies are not new. But is COVID-19 a catalyst for reforms and changes in governance and leadership models? 

Last year, at EHMA 2020, one of the key messages was that good governance is key for aligning perspectives, values, goals, and priorities, and is one of the essential ingredients for a strong and resilient health system. As European countries are working to ensure their preparedness for future crisis, EHMA 2021 proposes to dive deeper into the governance and leadership models that can support in meeting the goals of European Health Systems. 

1. WHO Regional Office for Europe. Strengthening the health system response to COVID-19 – Recommendations for the WHO European Region: policy brief. World Health Organization; 2020 Oct.