Opening speech at the First meeting of the European Health Policy Forum for High-level Government Officials

9 March 2011, Andorra la Vella, Andorra

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a delight to be here in Andorra for this first meeting of the European Health Policy Forum for High-level Government Officials. I start by the thanking the Government of Andorra and most particularly the Minister of Health, Well-being and Labour for their warm hospitality for this meeting, and for their support and cooperation throughout to make sure that this meeting will make a successful and most important contribution to health policy development in Europe.

The Regional Committee, in Moscow last year, decided enthusiastically to establish this High-level Forum as a vehicle for close collaboration between WHO/Europe and our Member States. This collaboration will be vitally important as we move forward with a number of initiatives and programmes that we will be discussing over the next days. We need your knowledge and experience, and your involvement and support as we move forward. Above all, we need your commitment to implementation of the policies and programmes we will be discussing here. Our goal and our commitment are the improvement of health for the populations across Europe.

I am delighted that we will be working here under the guidance of our two co-chairs, the health ministers of Andorra and Azerbaijan, who play such a wonderful role in the governance of the European Region. I agree with all of their earlier remarks, perhaps most particularly when they spoke of learning from the implementation of the Tallinn Charter commitments, and building that learning into the development of our new policies, such as Health 2020; the strengthening of public health; and the new strategy for tackling noncommunicable diseases. We need you to tell us what has worked, what has not worked and why.

We are addressing complex and challenging issues. All of our agenda is challenging: for example, developing intersectoral action and health in all policies are very demanding governance issues. I shall speak more of governance in a while, but for now I will mention the issues of intersectorality to illustrate the challenges we are faced with, and the need for new and innovative thinking about governance for health in today’s global and regional environment.

Health 2020 will be our major vehicle for health improvement within our Region. I also agreed wholeheartedly with both health ministers when they spoke of the importance of developing public health capacity and strengthening health systems across the Region. It is clear that, with the challenges we face, we must do this if we are to be effective in health improvement. We shall speak much more about these issues this week.

In all of this, we need the strongest leadership for health: new and strong leaders, able to deal with the complexity of the issues we shall be discussing and the uncertainty that surrounds all of what we shall do, yet still able to define practical policies that are capable of being implemented and that will work. We need to be ambitious, yet realistic. We need to focus on the achievable whilst reaching for the visionary. It will not be easy, but I feel so much more encouraged and optimistic, seeing you all here today and knowing that we can work together towards better health for Europe.

Again, Madam Minister, thank you for this opportunity to be here in Andorra and for all you have done and will do to make this meeting such a success.

Thank you.