Dr Christos Patsalides, President of the Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly
Transcript of the interview
WHO Secretariat (WHO):
Dr Patsalides, congratulations on your nomination and election as President of the Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly. You have a fascinating background. You have a background in law - you have done a lot of work in European studies. Your international work started between your country, Cyprus, and Europe, you were Minister of Interior for many years and for the last three years you have been Minister of Health. When you accepted this role, what fascinated you?
Dr Patsalides Minister of Health (MOH) of Cyprus, President of the Sixty-fourth World Health Assembly:
The whole procedure, the way that you communicate with all the persons from Secretariat and here - I have to pay my compliments to all those who work here. If we manage to have all these resolutions and if we manage to have all these discussions with concrete outcomes, this is partly because of the good preparation, because of the Secretariat, because of the people, the experts who are working here and they are giving us all this support. Otherwise, it would not be that easy for us. So I think it is much more possible because there is much work by the people here working behind the scenes.
WHO: Many important issues, many resolutions that are going to be discussed and hopefully passed. What are the most important items on this year's World Health Assembly agenda that personally resonate with you?
MOH: Definitely the discussion on the reform of the WHO itself. This proposal made by the Director-General is really, really very important and very vital during this period. After all these years, being in 2011 with all the changes in the world, it is good to revise and see which ways this Organization will function better, will manage to assist in a more efficient and in a more direct way the Member States, but above all to discuss also about the big issue of financing. You may hear me mentioning continuously how important it is to have the budget for doing things. Because, in this world we need to have a budget and we need to make wise use of the budget for having better results in whatever we achieve.
So, on the one hand the reform is very important, but the issue of chronic noncommunicable diseases also very important. We are discussing under the General Assembly the challenges of the new lifestyle. We are discussing about chronic noncommunicable diseases and it is important to know that if we have good prevention programmes starting from an early age, it will provide us with better results.
So on the one hand I want to give much emphasize all these prevention programmes starting from an early age. I want to promote programmes that will contribute to the improvement of health both physical and mental as well. We see young people of modern society are under this pressure, with all these issues, it is a life that is full of stress and sometimes it has all these negative effects, not only on their physical health but also on mental health.
WHO: If you project yourself to next week, the Assembly is over, your big job is over. How would you measure success for yourself?
MOH: For every politician who is here it is to take part in the discussions and take some ideas and learn certain issues and see how these could be applied in their own country. Sometimes it is not just the written common resolutions that bring results. The discussion, the tinkering of new issues for new policies in our states are also very important. So on the one hand, this personally the more I discuss and the more best practices I hear, it will be important to carry back to my country.
On the second hand, as President it will be important for me if we manage to reach certain resolutions and if we manage to express our determination as the leaders for the world's health that we remember people (as quoted by Margaret Chan). So we all need to remember people and do our best to be dedicated to put the new goals, the new efforts and to reach conclusions without sometimes problems or lack of cooperation that will be something very negative. So I will do my best to bring cooperation and understanding and hoping that we will reach some certain decisions and resolutions.
WHO: WHO has 150 country offices and we have about 8000 staff at the moment. What would be your message to our staff?
MOH: Firstly my message is that you are performing very well. We thank for all the work that is done by all the staff. All these people and all this expertise they are helping us to reach a point of discussion and of having everything there to take the final decisions. But also I would like to remind everyone of you that working for this Organization, working for people's health is not just work, not just a job, but a service. I am sure that the huge majority of those people engaged in this Organization don't face that just as a job, but they do realize the service that they provide for the world.