World Conference on Social Determinants of Health adopts Rio Political Declaration

WHO_Director-General-conferenceRio de Janeiro, October 24 –  The World Conference on Social Determinants of Health ended on Friday in  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the adoption of the meeting’s outcome document,   the Rio Political Declaration  on Social Determinants of Health. The conference which took place from 19-21 October at the Brazillian capital of Rio de Janeiro was attended by 125 Member States, 38 from the African region.

In his closing remarks, the Minister of Foreign Relations of Brazil, Mr.Antonio Patriota, thanked all participants for making the conference a success and for adopting its outcome document - the Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health.  Speaking on behalf of WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, the Assistant Director-General, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, said  that the Rio Political Declaration, which focuses on  five action areas, was meant to galvanize Member States, civil society and partners in tackling health inequities and inequalities between and within countries.

Dr Kieny also affirmed WHO’s commitment to promote and support equity in health as enshrined  in the WHO Constitution and the Alma Ata Declaration on primary health care.

Preceding the closing ceremony were, round table discussions featuring Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Dr H. Madzorera, the Health Ministers of South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively. Dr Aaron Motsoaledi identified extreme commercialization of health services including the privatization of the health system in South Africa as a major threat to closing the health equity gap.  He lamented that this phenomenon also evident in most African countries, was contributing to lack of access to and limited availability and affordability of essential health care services.

Dr H. Madzorera, the Minister of Health of Zimbabwe shared experiences from the 2008-2009 cholera outbreak in his country. More than 100,000 cases and 4,000 deaths were reported during the outbreak which was controlled through a strong coordination mechanism involving multiple sectors including communities, civil society, development partners and government. Based on the cholera control experience, Zimbabwe is now putting in place multi-sectoral social protection schemes to keep children from poor families in school.  The Zimbabwe Health Minister urged multi-players including government and civil society to advocate for equity both within and out of the health sector.

The forty Heads of delegations were each given a four-minute slot to make Statements on the theme of the conference and the Rio Political Declaration . The 19 Heads of delegations from the African region who made statements   were from Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.   The solidarity statements were premised around the five conference themes:  good governance, social participation, the role of the health sector, global action and monitoring of  progress. Heads of delegations from the African region endorsed the Rio Political Declaration and expressed strong desire to implement the proposed actions despite the challenges countries face. They also hoped to receive continued support from WHO.

Riz Khan of the English service of Al Jazeera, moderated a panel discussion examining key determinants of health through a life course approach.  The panellists were drawn from WHO,  IOM, UNFPA, UNICEF and the People Health Movement. The discussants agreed on the need for closer collaboration among UN agencies at all levels.  Civil society representatives stressed the importance of protecting health through addressing human resources for health, human rights and tackling the negative impact of trade on health.

Ms Maria Guzenina-Richardson, Minister of Health and Social Services, Finland announced  that the  8th Global Conference on Health Promotion  will  be held from  10-14 June, 2013   in Helsinki, and called for massive participation in the event. 
The Helsinki conference theme “Health in all Policies” links strongly to the just ended Rio Conference and global conferences on health promotion held in Ottawa, Canada (1986), Adelaide, Australia (1988), Bangkok, Thailand (2005) and Nairobi, Kenya (2009).

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