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Minister Nandi Glassie speech- 12th Pacific Health Ministers Meeting Official opening- Monday 28th August 2017


Traditional leaders
Members of Parliament
Religious leaders
His Excellency Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna

Acknowledging the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who is unable to be with us today.

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo
Director General of the Pacific Community, Dr Colin Tukuitonga,
Our Development partners

We would also like to make a special mention to our Sponsors- Ebos, also Opritech, Medspares, Southern Pearls Pty Ltd, Abbots- point of care, Roche diagnostics, NZ Air Ambulance Service

And also our Local Sponsors: Bluesky and also Edgewater, Pare Maui, Mafini Ratumu, Mata Raina,Jane Strickland, Larry Tumai and Maryanne Strickland and Mama Tekura Tereora for the pot plants and Tivaevae

Distinguished Delegates and Guests

Ladies and gentlemen,

Kia Orana and warm Pacific greetings.

On behalf of the Government of the Cook Islands, Turou! to this 12th Pacific Health Ministers meeting.

Turou! Pacific leaders and chief delegates and representatives. Thank you for accepting the invitation and your presence here indicates your support and commitment to the healthy islands vision, in the spirit of traditional kinship.

We also welcome our regional organization leaders Dr Shin Young Soo and Dr Colin Tukuitonga and we collectively express our Meitaki ma’ata for your support in   bringing Pacific Island Health leaders every two years. WHO and SPC have always been a pillar of strength and technical guidance in ensuring the common aspirations of the Pacific health leaders for the people are realized in our settings and concerns made known to global health.

We also express a warm welcome to our development partners and representatives of the Diplomatic corps and our local Non-Government Organisation’s we thank you for your continued interest and support for health.

Last but not the least I wish to welcome our Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Hon. Henry Puna who will be delivering the keynote address and declaring our meeting open.

It has been 22 years since the Yanuca declaration and the Healthy islands vision was conceptualized. We would like to acknowledge Dr Joe Williams as the Cook Islands Minister of Health in 1995 who was a part of this inaugural meeting.   This vision remains relevant and applicable to this day.  I want to remind the audience today that it has been 20years ago when the Cook Islands hosted the 2nd Pacific Health Ministers Meeting.

At this twelfth Pacific Health Ministers Meeting we will discuss, deliberate and develop a consensus view of health in the Pacific and set future directions in the effort to build Healthy Islands.

The Healthy Islands vision has served as a unifying theme for health protection and health promotion in the Pacific and reflects the comprehensive and integrated approach to health that is a hallmark of the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific. It laid the foundation for meetings of the Ministers of Health that have followed every 2 years.

Those meetings and the ongoing work of health professionals, government ministries and donor partners have helped establish the Healthy Islands movement as a major public health force in the Pacific.

At this twelfth Pacific Health Ministers meeting there have been efforts made this time to try streamlining a number of processes and to clarify several “grey areas” to set the scene for even more successful meetings going into the future- and so we can only go from strength to strength.

Health service delivery is essential to the Healthy Islands vision and ensuring that children and adults can grow, learn, play and age with dignity, as well as care for their environment. Combined with a focus on “family and community values, the foundation of Pacific culture” the Healthy Islands approach has strong links to the notion of health services for all or Universal Health Coverage.

Experience from across the Pacific and globally suggests that the best way to work towards the Healthy Islands vision and Universal Health Coverage for most Pacific Island Countries will be a focus on strengthening primary health care.

Pacific Island Countries are struggling to cope with the burden of NCD’s on individuals, families, communities, health systems and Pacific economies and poses a real threat to our achieving the vision of Healthy Islands.

Hence why it is vital that we provide strong and sustained leadership and support for NCD prevention and control. Importantly, we must remember that NCD is not just a health issue. Its causes are diverse and its impact are felt by all of society. Therefore, the solutions and response must be multi-sectoral. NCD is a “development priority” rather than only a health concern.

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. The prevalence has increased at an alarming rate.

Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop non communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Overweight and obesity, as well as their related diseases, are largely preventable. Prevention of childhood obesity therefore needs high priority.

The Pacific Health Ministers and Pacific Finance Ministers meetings are positive steps that our region have taken to address NCD and the resulting NCD Roadmap Report identifies strategic actions that other Ministries such as Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Trade etc will need to scale up to support our efforts to reduce the escalating NCD levels and build towards a generation free from NCD.

At the Global level, we must continue to work as a group to address NCD and other related health concerns that impacts our countries.

There is a saying- that there is no health without mental health!

Mental health and well-being are fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the region and the world.

In the context of national efforts to develop and implement mental health policy, it is vital to not only protect and promote the mental well-being of its citizens, but also address the needs of persons with defined mental disorders. Cost-effective public health and intersectoral strategies and interventions are needed to promote, protect and restore mental health. Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.

At the same time the region faces Emerging diseases and challenges around disaster preparedness and response in relation to the adverse effects of climate change. The Pacific region is at the forefront of the effects of climate change and will have to be prepared going into the future.

Workers in health systems around the world are experiencing increasing stress and insecurity as they react to a complex array of forces. Ageing population, new diseases as well as increasing burden of current diseases, escalating conflicts and violence, are all challenges to which the workforce must be prepared to respond.

Strengthening health information systems, civil registration and vital statistics was recognised by Pacific Health Ministers as a priority issue. The importance of reliable and timely health, mortality, and cause of death data as well as monitoring health outcomes can contribute to informed policy decisions.

Over the next three days I note a full agenda and I look forward to a productive and fruitful discussion which will ultimately manifest itself in better planning towards better health outcomes for our people.

I welcome you all and hope that you will enjoy our Cook Islands hospitality – we will try our best to provide the best possible climate and surroundings for this meeting but as we always say: we’re in God’s Hands. Whether it’s a case of rain or shine, it’s always considered a blessing.

Kia Orana e Kia Manuia.

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