Speech by Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health Jakob Forssmed at a seminar on global health
Speech delivered by Jakob Forssmed at the seminar Convergence on Global Health - Joint action with reference to the new EU Global Health Strategy at Karolinska Institutet, on 9 February 2023.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
I would like to start by thanking Karolinska Institutet and President Ole Petter Ottersen for arranging this timely meeting.
Thank you also to all guests and participants for joining us here in Stockholm today.
As Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health, I am excited about global health, which for me is about protecting and promoting people’s health both here in Sweden, in Europe and across the world.
To meet the global health challenges of today and the future, and to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda, we need a new approach.
That is why we welcome that the European Commission, based on input from many of you and from Member States, has presented a new EU Global Health Strategy.
And now, during the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we will lead the development of Council Conclusions to provide strategic and political direction from Member States.
But to really improve global health, we need all of you in this room, across the EU and around the globe to come together.
Your engagement in global health matters. Academia, civil society, citizens and communities are critical actors.
No country, no government can do it alone.
Simply put, the new EU Strategy represents a new approach in three ways:
- first, by building on a comprehensive understanding of global health in line with WHO’s three pillars: healthy societies, health systems and health security;
- second, through an increased focus on engaging all relevant sectors and EU instruments to improve health; and
- third, through renewed and different partnerships, especially with other regional partners.
Starting with the three priorities of the Strategy, I am personally particularly pleased about the priority on healthy societies to deliver better health and well-being of people across the life course.
This includes a healthy environment and enabling people to not just survive, but live healthy lives, through healthy food, physical activity, education and so on.
But as we highlight during our EU Council presidency, building strong, resilient and equitable health systems, and preventing health threats are equally important.
For example, last week, we co-organized a high-level conference on cancer here in Stockholm, together with the European commission, emphasizing equity, excellence and innovation, building on Europe´s Beating Cancer plan.
In March, another important high-level meeting will focus on Antimicrobial Resistance and what we can do to better tackle this growing health threat.
Here with a focus on the EU’s contribution to global efforts to curb AMR, and on sustainable access to existing and new antibiotics to enable effective treatment of infections.
And in April we will organise a conference to illuminate involuntary loneliness.
In recent years, especially after the pandemic, it has become clear that many people, as a consequence of isolation, suffer from involuntary loneliness. This is a major public health problem that we must adress.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights is an important priority for Sweden, where the EU can, and does, play a positive role.
For example through the regional Team Europe Initiative on SRHR in Sub-Saharan Africa where Sweden’s development cooperation agency, Sida, is a driving force.
Mental health is another critical issue which cuts across the three priorities, and where the EU Commission is planning to launch a dedicated strategy this year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The devastating COVID-19 pandemic has given renewed energy to international efforts to strengthen our ability to prevent, prepare for and respond to health threats.
Negotiations toward a new pandemic agreement and revised International Health Regulations in Geneva are now under way, and there will be an important high-level meeting in New York in September.
It is my hope that these and other ongoing processes can help to:
- strengthen international surveillance of health threats,
- empower WHO,
- improve access to vaccines, treatments and diagnostics,
and enhance leadership during health crises.
Another lesson from COVID-19 is the need to engage all relevant sectors to protect and promote people’s health.
The new EU Strategy emphasizes the need to draw on all relevant sectors and instruments available to the EU and its Member States to improve health.
Development assistance will of course continue to play a critical role, as do our work in the areas of trade, food systems and climate.
And since we are gathered today in the historic Nobel Forum where the Nobel Prize in Medicine is announced each year, I find it especially appropriate to underline the absolutely vital importance of research and innovation to provide evidence, identify solutions, and inspire action.
This brings me to my final point:
The new EU strategy emphasizes the need for renewed and different partnerships:
- with other countries,
- and stakeholders.
EU’s partnership with the African Union is a case in point, as is Karolinska Institutet’s long standing partnership with Makerere University in Uganda.
Civil society organizations have been instrumental in advocating for, and often also delivering, better health for many decades.
Their, your, role is as important as ever.
As I said at the beginning, no one can do all of this alone. We must come together.
So once again thank you for joining us, and for coming together to improve people’s health across the globe.