Remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the launch of the Western Area Health Initiative

Beijing, China
18 July 2012

Health Minister Chen Zhu, Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Margaret Chan, and WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo at the launch of the Western Area Health Initiative

HONOURABLE MINISTER CHEN ZHU

DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, DR MARGARET CHAN

DISTINGUISHED GUEST,

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,

Good afternoon.

I am delighted to be here today to help launch the Western Area Health Initiative, together with Minister Chen Zhu, Dr Chan, and provincial leaders and partners.

Like you, we believe that this Initiative will build on the energy and experience of recent years to further promote the cause of good health in western China.

As we all know, the western region is vast, covering more than 70% of the mainland. It has about a third of China's population – and yet delivers less than 20% of its economic output.

Quite clearly, this area represents great potential for China's economic and social development – and health can play a significant role in that process.

Let me assure you at the start that we at WHO are keen to make a full contribution to this goal.

Over the years, I have come to know many areas of China, both urban and rural, and to appreciate the challenges faced in ensuring good health for all the people.

While life in many ways is better these days for the great majority of people, disparities in health status and access to health care persist.

The western provinces continue to face the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Other factors also pose serious health threats, such as access to clean water and adequate sanitation, food safety, and the problem of nutritional deficiencies.

The Western Area Health Initiative will help address many of these challenges, through strategies and action-oriented plans designed to reduce health inequities and to improve the lives of those in the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

By placing health high on the political agenda, and by establishing an effective multi-sectoral approach, this Initiative will help in a number of important areas.

First, it will enable us together to systematically and scientifically develop provincial health profiles.

It will also strengthen health systems, establish comprehensive health management information systems and promote innovative urban and rural health activities.

As a first phase, the Ministry of Health has chosen to focus on Chongqing Municipality, Shaanxi Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, with a total population of more than 110 million.

Over the next few years, we can work together improve the health status of the populations in these three areas, leading to longer life expectancy and better quality of life for the people there.

The successes of the Western Area Health Initiative in the three areas may then serve as models for other western provinces – and also for developing countries in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I close, allow me to congratulate the Honourable Minister Chen Zhu on receiving the WHO Director-General’s special recognition certificate for World No Tobacco Day 2012.

Each year, the World Health Organization recognized leaders from around the world who have shown outstanding commitment to tobacco control.

Minister Chen Zhu has shown his strong will to protect health of the people from the lethal product, tobacco.

Today we are seeing another strong commitment from Health Minister and leaders from three provinces to improve health of the people.

Let me tell you how pleased we are to have this opportunity to work more closely with the Chinese Government, the Ministry of Health, and, very importantly, at the community level, directly with provincial governments.

In partnership with you, we will be directing WHO's attention and resources to this Initiative, making our work in China more focused and more effective.

On this important day, let us pledge to work together to help the people in the Western Region enjoy the good health they deserve!

Thank you.

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