The 21st-century health landscape is shaped by growing global, regional and local interdependence and an increasingly complex array of interlinking factors that influence health and well-being. Most of today's major public health challenges, including noncommunicable diseases, antimicrobial resistance, health inequalities and the health effects of austerity measures in some countries, cannot be addressed effectively without intersectoral and coordinated action at supranational, national and local levels. The 53 countries of the WHO European Region developed and adopted a European policy framework and strategy for the 21st century (Health 2020) as a common, evidence-informed policy framework to support and encourage coordinated action by policy-makers at all levels and in all sectors to improve population health and well-being. This article presents the development process of Health 2020 and its main strategic goals, objectives and content. Further, we describe what is needed to successfully implement Health 2020 in countries and how can WHO provide technical assistance to countries that embark on developing health policy aligned with the Health 2020 policy framework.