A Prescription for Development: Global Leaders Discuss Health Issues at the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion
By admin November 28, 2016

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From 21 – 24 November 2016, China hosted in Shanghai the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion. The conference, organized under the auspices of the Government of China and the World Health Organisation (WHO), was a landmark for strengthening global cooperation for public health.

The Shanghai Declaration on Health Promotion stressed the importance of promoting health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and while many progresses have been made, many issues remain to be addressed. In fact, according to the WHO, around 6.6 million children under the age of five still die each year, while non-communicable diseases like obesity and diabetes are the leading causes of premature deaths in the world.

Indeed, health is closely related to social inequality and development. Non-communicable diseases as well as major health problems are occurring much more amongst the poorest in rapidly developing economies , because they either opt for inexpensive, unhealthy food items or live in polluted, dangerous environmental conditions without the possibility of access to adequate medical and health services.

In this context, China was a perfect host for the 9th Global Conference on Health Promotion. President Xi Jinping has indeed put health at the center of the country’s entire policy-making machinery, ensuring health becomes an explicit national priority with the approval of the Healthy China 2030 Planning Outline by China’s Central Party Committee and the State Council.

Huge steps have already been taken, as over the last decade China embarked on the biggest health system reform the world has seen. At the start of the century, less than one-third of China’s population had access to health insurance; now nearly 100% can claim they do.

China, like the rest of the world, highlighted at the Shanghai Conference that it is simply not sustainable to meet these challenges in a health system that relies solely on hospitals. Health today covers all aspects of development, from economy to lifestyle, from inclusion to urban development. Therefore, promoting Healthy Cities was a major focus in the Conference: cities, in fact, offer many opportunities for employment and access to better services but also pose unique health risks. Again, these issues are related to inequality. In urban slums, overcrowding and lack of access to safe water and sanitation contribute to the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB). Violence and mental illness are other issues frequently present in a world where only 12 percent of cities globally reach pollution control targets.

Another important focus was on the spread of Health literacy, which refers to the ability of individuals to “gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health.” In this sense, promoting health literacy is a way to fight inequity in health assistance, empowering the most impoverished citizens to play an active role in improving their own health, engage successfully with community action, and push governments to meet their responsibilities in addressing health and health equity.

The final point of the Conference, and what makes the Shanghai Declaration an important step forward in global health development, is the stress global leaders have placed in highlighting cooperation and good governance as the key to enhance more equitable health conditions for everyone.

As the UN General Assembly stated in its 2012 Resolution on Universal Health Coverage, “Health is a precondition for all three dimensions of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental.” The multiple dimensions of this issue, along with the need for international cooperation in addressing it, has made health for all one of the most important focus in today’s global development.


For more information:

9th Global conference on health promotion: Global leaders agree to promote health to achieve Sustainable Development Goals

Healthy China 2030 (from vision to action)

WHO – The mandate for Healthy Cities

WHO – The mandate for Health Literacy

Global Health is priority for China

Three ways to improve Child Health

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