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Minister Huovinen in World Health Assembly (WHA)

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 19.5.2014 7.00
Speech -

(Check against delivery)

Mr President,
Director General Chan,
Distinguished Colleagues,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address this Assembly on behalf of the Government of Finland. Finland fully aligns itself with the statement made by the Honorable Minister Georgiadis on behalf of the European Union.

Climate change, with increase of extreme weather events, drought and flooding, is an overarching global issue and a challenge for global cooperation. This complex challenge requires long-term action across government sectors from the global to the local level.

The WHO 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion in Helsinki last June focussed on "Health in All Policies" as an important means for working across sectors. We need to continue strengthening the role of health in all relevant policies. We need to ensure that sufficient knowledge and capacities exist within the Ministries of Health and WHO.

We, as leaders in health, have the responsibility to ensure that health is taken into account in addressing climate change. This is necessary for the purpose of limiting or mitigating negative impact. Also, it is essential to realize the potential co-benefits for health. I would like to use city planning as an example: by creating a safe environment for cycling and reducing the carbon footprint, we can promote healthier lifestyles and exercise.

Climate change is likely to have a more serious impact on the poor and vulnerable populations, for example in the form of forced migration due to natural disasters. It is important that our work on climate change focuses on equity, gender and social determinants of health.

Sustainable development is built on three dimensions: social, economic and environmental. This balance needs to be maintained when drafting the POST2015 agenda.

Health is an important component of human development and sustainable society. Climate change is likely to pose further costs on already burdened health systems.
It is important to strengthen the adaptive capacity of health systems, but not only because of climate change. Ageing populations, financial constraints and diminishing workforce contribute to the need to reform health systems.

Finland is currently undergoing a historic reform of our social and health care system. We are in the process of shifting the responsibility for arranging social welfare and health services from municipalities to larger regions. The aim is to improve sustainability and to reduce inequalities. Social welfare and health care services, as well as, primary care and specialized services, will be integrated into one system, organized by five regions. This will be coupled with stronger national steering.

In conclusion, I would like to underline that, we have an obligation to remember, that our Earth is only on loan to us from our children.

Thank you.

Susanna Huovinen
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