HRH The Crown Princess’ speech at the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Copenhagen on 12 September 2016

Offentliggjort den 12. september 2016

Honourable Ministers, Mr. Deputy Director-General, Regional Director, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Good morning everyone,

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

When you ask someone what is the most important thing in life, the answer is more often than not; Health and Happiness.  Although two answers, it is hard to imagine one without the other and studies show that a person's health is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. But the link between health and happiness is very complex.

So, your 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, for example; by reducing poverty, creating  growth and increasing the quality of life....and happiness.

I would like to thank the Regional Committee for inviting me to participate in the 66th Session of the Regional Committee for Europe of the World Health Organisation. And this year, it is once again being held in my home town. 

“The 2030 Agenda”, is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. In this respect, your agenda will address the most urgent issues related to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages.  I am excited about the prospects, the potential and vision that you, here in this room today, can contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals. And, I am confident that we collectively possess the necessary dedication and commitment to maintain the momentum towards healthier and more equitable populations in Europe by 2030.

The progress and successes that have been achieved over the past years are a testament to your ambition and commitment.  And although ‘the bar is constantly being raised’ and new goals are constantly being set, it is also important to take a moment to recognise how far the Region has come – to reflect on just how much health and wellbeing within the Region have improved.

I share in the belief that girls and women are the key to building healthy, prosperous, and sustainable societies and communities.  Today more than ever, this belief is recognised explicitly in the new Sustainable Development Agenda – our ability to achieve truly transformative change and results across all 17 goals is dependent on the realisation of gender equality and significant progress achieved for girls and women.

In May, 6000 people from 169 countries participated in the 4th Women Deliver Conference here in Copenhagen. The conference was a perfect platform to accelerate effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda with a specific focus on how to effectively deliver the SDGs, so that they become a reality in the lives of girls and women all around the world. 

In short, how to make the world a better place for all.  Naturally enough, health – in particular maternal, sexual and reproductive health and rights – and gender equality, education, environment, and the economic empowerment of girls and women were high on the agenda.

Two agenda items of this Regional Committee the “Strategy on women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region” and the “Action plan for sexual and reproductive health in Europe”, are directly linked to the request of many participants at the Conference for support in developing their national policies, as well as support to solve existing problems.

This WHO Strategy recognizes women’s health from a life course perspective and focuses on the impact of gender inequalities recognized by SDG Number 5 on health outcomes for women. It provides a guide for the health sector on tackling existing discrimination, biases and one of the most widespread violations of human-rights - violence against women.

Investing in a life-course approach to health means ensuring the promotion of a healthy start to life and meeting the health needs of individuals throughout their lives. Whilst there’s more to be done, good practice already exists and was discussed by experts and policy makers during the WHO European Ministerial Conference on the Life-course Approach in the Context of Health 2020.  It resulted in the Minsk Declaration and calls for immediate joint action – which is to be further discussed in a session this afternoon.

Two areas where I find this life-course approach to be particularly valuable are in the promotion of immunization and combating antimicrobial resistance – one of the main threats to the global health of our time.  Through the success of antibiotic treatment, we have grown to believe that antibiotics can pretty much cure everything. This misperception is wide-spread. In order to be successful in addressing antibiotic resistance; we need to change people’s attitudes and behaviours. Understanding the issues and acting accordingly is at the core of the solution.

I understand that in the European Region since 2011, there has been a significant increase in action after the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan on Antibiotic Resistance, which was adopted during the Regional Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The World Antibiotic Awareness Week is one of the many activities - which I also lend my support - that are important in achieving the goals laid out in that Plan.

On Wednesday you will discuss an action plan for the health sector response to viral hepatitis in the WHO European Region - a plan to address the increase in chronic viral hepatitis-related liver diseases, which is a serious public health burden in our Region. The plan aims to overcome the challenges facing the Region in terms of surveillance and access to prevention and harm reduction services. It also reaffirms your adoption in 2014 of the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020, and its third goal - to control hepatitis B infection through immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as hepatitis B, must continue to hold our focus and we must remain persistent. The progress made towards measles and rubella elimination and maintenance of the Region’s polio free status, clearly demonstrates the positive return on investment for immunization. Controlling hepatitis B is achievable. 

Indeed, all of the items on the agenda this week yield whole-of-society benefits that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. The topics and issues you will discuss are also very much responsive to the needs of the Region. This demonstrates the value of a strong WHO and I am proud to be Patron of an organisation that is genuinely listening to your needs and wants and is taking action – even when that requires reform. It is a bold and courageous step WHO now takes to strengthen the Region’s collective ability to respond to emergencies, and to be better prepared and more resilient to public health threats.

I applaud your continued dedication to improving the health and well-being of every person in this richly-diverse Region. With these words, I wish you ‘Health and ´Happiness’ and success during the week ahead.