Crown Princess Mary of Denmark put vaccination at the heart of her agenda as she spoke at the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Europe’s 69th session on its opening day Monday.
“I am honoured to once again have the opportunity to speak to you,” Mary started.
“Time goes by quickly and while preparing for this meeting I realized just how quickly it does go, as this is now my fifteenth year as Patron of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and for ten of those years I have had the distinct pleasure of working together with the Regional Director, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab.”
Dr. Jakab will step down during the session and her successor will be chosen. Mary continued, talking about the progresses made in health care and research in her time as patron.
“Health 2020 has proven to be a powerful tool to build political consensus and drive intersectoral action for health. Indeed, Health 2020 has placed the Region in an advantageous position to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and leave no one behind in health, or in life.”
Health 2020 is an initiative launched by the WHO Europe Region that “aims to support action across government and society to ‘significantly improve the health and well-being of populations, reduce health inequalities, strengthen public health and ensure people-centred health systems that are universal, equitable, sustainable and of high quality.’”
It was adopted at the WHO Regional Committee for Europe session in 2012. At the time, Mary said that she would focus on three specific areas outlined in the Health 2020 documents: immunization, antimicrobial resistance, and maternal and child health.
Speaking on Monday, Mary added: “Throughout my years as Patron, advocating for immunization has been a priority, and a personal conviction. Every child born deserves an equal opportunity to lead a healthy life, and this includes receiving all recommended vaccines.
“We have safe and effective means to eliminate many diseases, including measles and cervical cancer, thereby preventing suffering from diseases that can permanently alter or take lives.”
Immunization factors into 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations for its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Speaking about sexual and reproductive health services, Mary said that they have the ability to “dramatically improve lives” but are included unevenly and fragmented across the European Region.
“In too many instances, there is a failure to deliver quality and comprehensive access to information and services. Countries and health systems that do not prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights, that do not empower girls or address gender equality, will struggle and likely fail to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
“I urge you to intensify efforts to smooth the path towards expanding coverage and providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, so girls and women can contribute fully and equally to sustainable development and achieve their own full potential.”
Speaking about the goals for the session, Mary said, “Through implementing Health 2020; improving health equity and the wider conditions that influence health; and building effective, integrated primary health care covering immunization and sexual and reproductive services, I am certain that you will extend universal health coverage, deliver GPW 13, and speed progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Ultimately, this means you will improve lives, hand-in-hand with the child, young person, woman or man who risks falling behind. You will enable people in the European Region to prosper and thrive.”
Other speakers on the first day of the session included Dr. Jakab and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeus, the WHO Director-General.
Mary’s full speech can be found here.