Geneva – The 62nd World Health Assembly opened today, as officials from 193 member countries began their annual review of the activities of the WHO and new priorities for the future.
Addressing the Assembly, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan noted the current financial crisis and global economic downturn facing the world. Dr. Chan said that an effective public health response to threats depends on strong health systems that are inclusive, and offer universal coverage down to the community level. Adequate numbers of trained, motivated and compensated staff, as well as fair access to affordable medical products and other interventions are all required for an effective public health response to any situation.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also addressed the Assembly about the need to focus on improving health systems around the world, especially working to improve women's health. "A healthier world is a better world, a safer world, a more just world," said Mr. Ban. "That is why I say that cutting investment on health at times of recession is not just morally wrong, it is economically foolish." He went on to say that maternal health is a key barometer of a functioning health system, and he stressed the need to build a health system that can successfully handle both normal deliveries and emergencies.
Following Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's speech, Sarah Brown, wife of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, spoke about her commitment to improving maternal health with the maternal mortality campaign. Mrs. Brown also emphasized the need to strengthen health systems, saying, "A health system that works for the mother, works also for early infant care, for vaccinations, for infection control, for blood transfusions, for emergency surgery, for every member of the community. There is better understanding now than ever before that if we build for mothers then we build for everyone."
To find out more about the World Health Assembly, click here.
To read Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon's speech, click here.
To read Sarah Brown's speech, click here.