Crown Princess Mary of Denmark gave a speech at the 71st session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Europe on Monday, talking about the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on children and youth and other vulnerable groups.
The meeting, which took place both virtually and in person in the UN City in Copenhagen, brought together Europe’s top medical and healthcare professionals to discuss current health issues and goals for the future.
In her speech, Crown Princess Mary highlighted what she considers three of the most important health issues moving forward.
She said these were the negative consequences of the pandemic on children and youth, including effects on their mental health; the importance of immunizing children to ensure a healthy path for them; and the impact on vulnerable population groups with regards to how the pandemic overwhelmed those in the health sector.
Crown Princess Mary said: “[Twenty] months. That is the time that has passed since the pandemic first began to fill our news feeds.
“[Twenty] months! Imagine that in the life of a young person who craves social interaction. A young person suddenly faced with a complete disruption of daily routines – and of all social life.
“With four youngsters in our household and the work with the Mary Foundation, I have witnessed how prolonged social isolation effects the mood and behaviour of young people.
“Many children and young people have coped with it – although with difficulty. Many have suffered.”
Of the WHO/Europe session’s goals, Crown Princess Mary said: “As you embark on extensive discussions over the next three days, it is reassuring to see that addressing mental health has a prominent place on the agenda.
“As one of the flagship initiatives of the European Programme of Work, the forthcoming launch of the Mental Health Coalition will give much needed impetus to increase support and investment in mental health services, now required more urgently than ever.
“Another flagship initiative in focus this year, is the Immunization Agenda 2030. Immunization has long been a focus of my advocacy work with the WHO Regional Office for Europe, but COVID-19 has placed vaccines centre stage, and impacted immunization programmes in multiple ways.
“We all know the power of vaccines – how they offer a safe and effective means to eliminate many diseases, and thus prevent suffering that can permanently alter or take lives.
“You and your ministries have already done much to ensure that routine immunization coverage continues across the European Region.”
She also spoke of the need to focus on women’s and reproductive health, which has seen setbacks due to the pandemic, saying, “much work and effort are still required to achieve universal SRH [sexual reproductive health] and well-being for all in the European Region.”
The 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe takes place from 13-15 September.
Crown Princess Mary has been the Patron of WHO/Europe in 2005 and has advocated for maternal and children’s health as well as immunizations and antimicrobial resistance.