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New Bangkok charter for health promotion adopted to address rapidly changing global health issues

Concludes 6th Global Conference on Health Promotion, Thailand, 7-11 August

A new Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion has been adopted today by participants at the 6th Global Conference on Health Promotion, co-hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand. It identifies major challenges, actions and commitments needed to address the determinants of health in a globalized world by engaging the many actors and stakeholders critical to achieving health for all.

The Charter highlights the changing context of global health and the challenges faced in achieving its aims, including the growing double burden of communicable and chronic diseases which include heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. There is also the need to address and harness the health effects of globalization such as widening inequities, rapid urbanization and the degradation of environments.

The Bangkok Charter gives new direction to Health Promotion by calling for policy coherence, investment and partnering across governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to work towards four key commitments. These include ensuring that health promotion is central to the global development agenda, that it is a core responsibility of all governments and part of good corporate practice, as well as a focus of community and civil society initiatives.

“The Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion will be the product of many organizations, networks, groups and individuals in many countries. It will urge all stakeholders to work together in a worldwide partnership to fulfill its commitments and carry out its strategies," said Dr. LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization in his opening address to the conference. "The action you take in the light of this Charter can radically improve the prospects for health in communities and countries around the world.”

The Charter has been developed through an open consultation process involving participants from a wide range of groups and organizations around the globe. The discussion was concluded at the conference this week, attended by 700 participants from more than 100 countries including leading Health Promotion experts, government policy makers, non-governmental organizations, health specialists and representatives from the private sector.

The Ottawa Charter of 1986 established the core principles of Health Promotion which seek to identify and positively affect the root causes, or determinants, of health. These are social and economic factors that determine health status such as income, education, profession, working conditions, mental status, which in turn can affect risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, eating habits and physical inactivity.

Health Promotion works to enable people to increase control over their health and its determinants by developing personal skills, embracing community action, and fostering appropriate public policies, health services and supportive environments. Health Promotion is currently guiding global, national and community health policies, thereby contributing to reducing health risks. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and The WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health represent just two examples.

But major inequities persist globally, particularly in the developing world. Speaking at the Bangkok conference, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Chair of WHO's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, identified a fundamental concern: “It is not inevitable that there should be a spread of life expectancy of 48 years among countries and 20 years or more within countries. A burgeoning volume of research identifies social factors at the root of much of these inequalities in health.” The challenge of the Bangkok Charter has been to determine how best to respond to the many global changes and trends that are critically affecting health and well-being and how to evolve Health Promotion strategies to address these inequalities and to be more relevant to the demands of the new millennium.

The conference has also examined many issues pertaining to these challenges. Discussion ranged from trade agreements and public health to the regulation of products harmful to health, and from the health experience of marginalized groups to the role of private sector foundations. The conference proved a valuable forum for disseminating results and lessons learnt of the effectiveness of Health Promotion and how to evolve these to better address ongoing inequalities.

The conference's co-host, the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, has demonstrated its strong commitment to Health Promotion by hosting Thai Day which elaborated on its many programmes and projects. The country has this year launched a campaign entitled 'Healthy Thailand', with an approach focusing on the principle of 'building' rather than 'repairing' health. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, the Prime Minister of Thailand, H. E. Pol. Lt. Col. Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, noted, "It is clear that good health is a key to progress. In those societies where people are healthy, such communities are sure to progress in many ways. Building health has thus become a priority on national and global agendas."

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For more information contact:

Mike Shaw
Conference Communications Coordinator
Bangkok
Telephone: + 66 9 534 5177

Jane McElligott
Communications Officer, Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health
World Health Organization
Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 3353
Mobile phone: +41 79 477 17 40
E-mail: mcelligottj@who.int