Address to Sixty-second World Health Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland
18 May 2009
Concern over flu pandemic justified
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization
Mister President, honourable ministers, excellencies, distinguished delegates, Dr Mahler, ladies and gentlemen,
Over the past three decades, the world has, on average, been growing richer. People have, on average, been enjoying longer and healthier lives.
But these encouraging trends hide a brutal reality. Today, differences in income levels, in opportunities, and in health status, within and between countries, are greater than at any time in recent history.
Our world is dangerously out of balance, and most especially so in matters of health. The current economic downturn will diminish wealth and health, but the impact will be greatest in the developing world.
Human society has always been characterized by inequities. History has long had its robber-barons and its Robin Hoods. The difference today is that these inequities, especially in access to health care, have become so deadly.
The world can be grateful that leaders from 189 countries endorsed the Millennium Declaration and its Goals as a shared responsibility. These Goals are a profoundly important way to introduce greater fairness in this world.
Populations all around the world can be grateful that health officials are recommitting themselves to primary health care. This is the surest route to greater equity in access to health care.
Public health can be grateful for backing from the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. I agree entirely with the findings. The great gaps in health outcomes are not random. Much of the blame for the essentially unfair way our world works rests at the policy level.
Time and time again, health is a peripheral issue when the policies that shape this world are set. When health policies clash with prospects for economic gain, economic interests trump health c...