Congratulatory remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, 10th Annual Meeting of Health Technology Assessment International: "Evidence, Values, and Decision-Making: Science or Art?"

COEX Convention Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea
17 June 2013

Distinguished participants,

Honourable guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

It is an honour to speak here at the 10th Annual Meeting of Health Technology Assessment International.

I would like to congratulate Health Technology International, the National Evidence-based Healthcare Collaborating Agency and the Ministry of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea for putting together this meeting.

In all, some 750 participants have come from more than 60 countries for this 10th anniversary meeting.

I am especially delighted to be invited to address this group because Health Technology Assessment is increasingly important to our work at WHO.

And its role will become more important in the future as we further customize our efforts to the needs of individual Member States.

In every country, the demand for health care and expenditures on health are increasing. Effective health technologies have been a foundation of many major health gains in recent history.

Unfortunately, government and donor resources are sometimes spent on expensive technologies that benefit few people – while millions lack access to basic, inexpensive lifesaving technologies.

Sometimes the decision to procure technologies can be ad hoc or based on faulty assumptions – more the result of advocacy than science.

To avoid such situations, we must support policy-makers with the evidence they need to select cost-effective and efficient health technologies and interventions.

Attaining universal health coverage requires strong, efficient and well-managed health systems that ensure equitable access.

Access to medicines and health technologies are at the heart of this approach.

But we know we cannot do it all.

Difficult decisions must be made.

Our challenge is to spend more wisely – to provide adequate quality services to as many people as possible with the limited resources at hand.

Health technology assessment – or HTA, as it is known – is an increasingly useful tool in making these tough choices.

HTA can help policy-makers direct resources to the most cost-effective interventions.

By helping define the best interventions, health technology assessment supports the development of universal health coverage.

HTA directly supports policy-makers working to improve access, quality and coverage of health care – the three stepping stones to universal health coverage.

One of the most inspiring developments I have seen as Regional Director for the Western Pacific has been the incorporation of universal health coverage by countries into their national planning.

We must make certain, however, that this commitment does not fade.

Universal health coverage cannot become something that we keep moving toward but never reach.

Today HTA is applied primarily in high-income countries. However, there is a great need for HTA in low- and middle-income countries.

Where resources are tighter, buying decisions should be tougher. A systematic cost-containment process should be part of this increased scrutiny.

A number of HTA models have been developed around the world over the past decade. Many of you here have helped develop one or more of them.

You even may have played a role in convincing decision-makers to set up legal frameworks and integrate HTA in health-financing decisions.

Your work deserves praise. You have contributed to more equitable and fair allocation of resources and improved access.

But capacity needs to be developed further in many lower income countries in order to ensure the sustainability of universal health coverage.

To that end, many of you here have been actively promoting Health Technology Assessment.

You have done a commendable job of collaborating to build capacity in Europe, Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world.

Now more than ever, we need greater technical cooperation between all stakeholders. This critical link will allow us to strengthen regulatory authorities and improve the HTA‐regulatory interface.

In the coming years, WHO will continue to expand its support for priority-setting and rationalizing investments in technologies.

To do this well, we need to focus on reducing waste as we improve quality and efficiency.

Increasingly, we need to sharpen strategies to move away from wasteful technologies – and redirect limited resources to more cost-effective interventions.

This is a critical task and a challenge for all countries as we move ahead with HTA implementation.

For years WHO has been working with international organizations and WHO collaborating centres.

We continue to actively extend collaboration with HTA organizations at the global, regional and national levels.

As always, WHO is ready to support and use its convening power to increase the role of health technology assessment in the decision-making process.

In fact, yesterday I convened an informal roundtable with global leaders and HTA experts. This meeting was short but productive.

As you know, WHO is the world's leading public health authority with many programmes, addressing everything from infant mortality to healthy ageing.

As such, we have the power to bring all the parties to the table. But the solutions and follow through must come from you – the experts at the operational level.

I am eager to hear more about your work to help ensure value for money when investing in health technologies.

Working together, we can scale up support for Member States in their drive to build better health systems that serve all their people.

Thank you.