H.K.H. Kronprinsessens tale ved OECD konferencen ‘Health in the 21st Century’ den 21. november 2019

Offentliggjort den 21. november 2019 / Published on 21 November 2019

Distinguished guests, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen.

It is always a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished group of people, especially those who are dedicated to achieving good health for all, at all ages.

The ambition to achieve good health for all, at all ages will directly impact - economically, socially and environmentally - our lives and our societies in so many positive ways, such as; creating growth and increasing the quality of life .... and not forgetting the all-important goal in life …. happiness.

As the former, British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said some 75 years ago:

“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have”.

I think we can all agree with these wise words.  Without the health and well-being of a population as a fundament, achieving sustainable development and securing a brighter future for our children and grandchildren will remain elusive.

Many of the health challenges being faced globally are shared challenges.  And they are both large and complex.  Medical science and innovation are essential in our quest for long and healthy lives and in protecting us from genetic, infectious and chronic disease. Developing solutions to our common challenges requires collaboration; the sharing of knowledge, expertise, know-how and innovation. 

I therefore warmly welcome that the OECD with today’s conference offers a platform for exchange of knowledge on solutions, best practices and discussing trial and error. For exchanging political as well as practical perspectives. And for pushing forward the important agenda of digital health.

Contrary to other centuries, where we have continuously and with success strived to improve health, today digitalization is a defining factor. Everyone talks about digital opportunities and the enormous perspectives it brings. In fact, we are in the middle of a digital health revolution.

However, allow me to start somewhere else.  One of the first areas that underwent digital transformation was the music industry.

We all remember how LPs crackled when they played. And how it was a huge breakthrough when portable devices like Walkmans, mp3-players, later IPODs and today our smartphones were introduced.

Not alone were they a new format for storing music, they made music more personal – we could take our music with us, wherever we went.

This continued with music file sharing services, and a myriad of streaming services. Technology and digitalization made music more accessible and more usable for a much broader audience.

Healthcare is of course not Bach, Beatles or Bowie. However, the idea, the approach and the transformation to a more digital healthcare system has many similarities to the development, we have seen in the music industry.

It can be of huge value for some patients to be an active partner in managing their own treatment; contacting their doctor directly, getting medical records or ordering medication from their home, as easily as it is, to stream their favourite music on their smartphone.

Digital health innovations have the power to close data gaps, solve health system challenges and save lives.

Therefore, I am honoured to be here today and support the critical agenda of the future, of our healthcare.

When facing both current and future health challenges, we must therefore seize the opportunities provided by new technology, such as apps, e-health solutions, and personalised medicine to achieve good health for all, at all ages.

To do so, we need to share and learn from each other – and very often, we also need close collaboration.

Health data has actively been used for patient treatment and research for more than 50 years. In some countries more than others.

In many places this has been used to improve quality of care and shape coherent, trust-worthy, and sustainable health systems.

This trend has been further supported by the ever-expanding digital infrastructure and availability of digital solutions.

However, let us bear in mind, that even though we come from different starting points in taking advantage of the digital opportunities, every step taken is an important one.

Last Thursday, I returned from the Nairobi Summit, which marked 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.  25 years ago, the human rights of women and girls, including SRHR, were placed at the centre of both individual advancement and balanced development.

Also, here, digitalization plays an important role in terms of measuring our progress and/or lack thereof. Digitalization gives us access to much better data. Data that can help us to see the realities and to build on that information in order to develop effective solutions and interventions.

It also provides a platform, from which to disseminate health information, using rather simple technology.

For women, especially in less developed countries, even simple technologies such as a text message on the mobile phone or a skype call offer solutions with vital health information that can make a huge difference to their health situation.

These can range from what to expect when you’re pregnant, how to make health decisions for your children, to apps that help educate young women about their reproductive health and rights. - greatly increasing the chances that women can manage their own and their family’s health situation, in the best possible way.

At the same time, it provides solutions that help healthcare workers in remote areas to offer quality care, to give health advice or to give feedback on results of a test. All together making a difference for the wellbeing of many more people.

One of the lessons learned here is, that digitalization of healthcare does not always have to include massive computer systems, algorithms or innovative projects lasting for years, in order to make a positive impact.

It also shows that giving people the means to engage themselves in their own health situation matters, and can lead to health improvements.

In other words, digital healthcare is more than just highly advanced technology.

It is often about finding ways to provide information and engage people in managing their own health situation. And about empowering healthcare professionals in their daily work and decision-making.

Compared to most other public services, healthcare is relevant throughout all life-stages.  We are all affected by how well our health system works.  We therefore need to ensure better, more equitable, sustainable health and well-being for all at all ages: This is universal health coverage. 

Therefore, when creating innovative solutions for the demands of healthcare today, tomorrow and in the future it is also important to address the issue of inequality in health.

Strong digital health infrastructures hold large potential in relation to mitigating inequality in health, whether this inequality relates to geography, social background, employment or age.

However, reducing inequality will only succeed if we can identify and understand the various target groups and ensure that our focus is also directed at these groups of people. Especially those without a strong network. Those, who may not be comfortable with new technology, apps or devices. Those, who are vulnerable.

It is therefore crucial to ensure that innovation in healthcare clearly aims to benefit all patients, not only the most resourceful and quick to adapt.

And here potential gains also exist - the more patients that use new technology to take care of their own health and treatment, the more space is available for other patients, who need to see a health professional in person.

In closing, let me reiterate, that we must seek and take advantage of all the possibilities digitalization and healthcare data bring us. Just as digitalization has made music more accessible and more usable for a much broader audience, so too can healthcare become more accessible and more targeted, meaning; the right solutions for the right patients.

We need to be awake to the fact that digital transformation creates not only opportunities but, also risks that can affect the well-being of people.  This was an issue that OECD reflected on in a report earlier this year. 

And we need to remember that both low-key, simpler solutions as well as large scale ones can make an enormous difference to many people.

Healthcare systems of the future will need to reach more people and provide more efficient, personalised and sophisticated treatment and care. Preparing for future demands of our healthcare systems requires that their transformation engages patients and citizens and has a strong focus on creating benefits and added value for all patients and citizens. No matter what their life situation is.

We share a common ambition, the ambition to improve quality of life, for all.

Today’s OECD forum is a good example that acknowledges that by working together we can achieve even better results, for more people; by sharing knowledge and experiences, using the knowledge of the past and present we can create better solutions for the future.

Thank you.