|Press Release WHO/1
14 January 1999
LONDON, (14 January
1999) Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the Geneva-based World Health
Organization today urged planners, economists and public health specialists to make health
central to the development agenda.
"There is solid evidence to prove that investing wisely in health will help the world take a giant leap out of poverty. We can drastically reduce the global burden of disease. If we manage, hundred of millions of people will be better able to fulfil their potential, enjoy their legitimate human rights and be driving forces in development. People would benefit. The economy would benefit. The environment would benefit. It is a complex process but it can be done," Dr Brundtland said. She was speaking in London at a seminar entitled "Public Health for a New Era".
Although the world has long known that poverty breeds ill health, Dr Brundtland said it has become clear that ill health also perpetuates poverty. "Turning that around we end up with a simple, but vastly significant assertion: improved health is a key factor for human development and again, for the development of nations and for their economic growth".
The seminar, organized by The King's Fund, an independent British health charity established in 1897, was also addressed by Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, Clare Short, UK Secretary of State for International Development, Tessa Jowell, UK Minister of State for Public health and Sir Donald Acheson, author of the UK's Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health.
The poor, Dr Brundtland pointed out, are the most exposed to the risks of a hazardous environment, and the least informed about threats to health. It is the poor who bear the brunt of crude structural adjustment policies and unregulated globalization, of epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. "In the fight against poverty, we need to approach rich and poor countries alike", she stressed.
Dr Brundtland pleaded her case by stating that "investing in effective health systems will mean more successful, cohesive societies, sound economies and less social damage". She proceeded to say that "improved health is a key factor for human development From being an unproductive consumer of public budgets, health is now gradually seen as a central element of productivity itself".
Our lack of interest in health as an economic concept is due to complacency, the WHO Chief suggested. This is "promoted by powerful interests in health care technology, including within the health professions themselves .Health systems have become dumping ground for the consequences of inadequate policy".
Setting out WHO's policy on health and economic development, Dr Brundtland emphasised the need for improved policies on health which must encompass economics, politics, the environment and social issues. "A window of opportunity has opened up. We should use it to provide convincing advice, backed up by hard evidence, on the best policies and cost-effective processes through which health can fulfil its development potential."
During her visit to London (13-15 January), Dr Brundtland is to call on British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. The meeting is to concentrate on bilateral relations between WHO and the United Kingdom, and on the ways and means of securing an even greater participation of UK institutions in WHO's special projects: be it Roll Back Malaria or Tobacco Free Initiative.
Dr Brundtland is also meeting Mrs Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development.
Note to Editors
Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO, will be speaking at a King's Fund seminar "Public Health for a New Era" at 11.30 a.m. on Thursday, 14 January 1999. Other speakers include: Clare Short, UK Secretaryf State for International Development, Tessa Jowell, UK Minister of State for Public Health, Professor Amartya Sen, Master, Trinity College, Cambridge, and Sir Donald Acheson, author of the UK's Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health.
This is a private seminar. However, journalists wishing to sit in should contact Alison Forbes in the King's'Fund Press Office on +44 171 307 2581. Copies of Dr Brundtland's'speech are available under embargo from WHO. Press contacts at WHO are: Jon Liden on +41 22 791 2536 or Vaiju Naravane on +41 22 791 3223.
The King's Fund is an independent health charity established in 1897. Its work is based on evidence of need and a commitment to the values of social justice and public service. It is independent of Government and all other political or special interests groups.