• Lead-organizer: World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • 19:00 - 20:30
  • Date: 20 Jun 2012
  • Room: T-9

Health and Sustainable Development - Reinforcing the Links

Organizing partners

World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of Brazil - Ministry of Health and FIOCRUZ (National School of Public Health).


?Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature?. Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

Twenty years on, the Government of Brazil, Ministry of Health and the WHO recognize the opportunity provided by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to set the world back onto a sustainable development path in which better and more equitable health outcomes play a key role.

The purpose of this event is to help Member States articulate how health and the health sector can contribute towards the achievement of the Rio+20 Conference objectives, support fits decisions and follow-up actions, with respect to three key issues:

- Universal health coverage

- Health in the 'green economy'

- Health as a measure of sustainable development achievements; measuring progress and impact

Detailed programme

Introduction: From Rio to Rio+20 - What we know, what we have learned
WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan

Renewed commitment to sustainable development (SD) is needed to bring about the integration of policies across in economic, environmental and social domains, with human beings, and their health and well-being, at the centre. Rio+20 offers an important opportunity to re-examine and re-establish the relationship between health and SD in line with the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in 1992 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation in 2002.

WHO's Director General will outline how our thinking about health and development has evolved since the first Rio conference to greater awareness of the linkages between health, environment, including the health co-benefits of certain climate change strategies, how health behaviour can be influenced by the environment, as well as the importance of social determinants of health and access to health coverage, as the defining factors influencing the rates of non-communicable diseases and diseases of poverty.
Ensuring 1) universal health coverage, 2) SD and green economy actions that address health at multiple levels, and 3) health relevant measures of progress; can be a focus of renewed commitment to action and a major contribution to the outcomes of Rio+20.

TF 1: Universal health coverage (Speaker TBD)

There have been major advances in human health and healthcare coverage over the last two decades, however, those benefits have been unequally shared.

WHO estimates that more than 1 billion people worldwide do not have access to needed health services, either because those services are not available, or people cannot afford to use them. Moreover, 150 million people each year suffer severe financial catastrophe, because they fall ill, use health services, and need to pay for them, either directly out of pocket or without any prospect of future reimbursement. Many people have to sell assets or go into debt to pay for those health services, with 100 million people being pushed under the poverty line as a result.

Coverage of health services also remains very partial or lacking in many countries, as reflected by the different rates of progress in attainment of health-related MDG goals. For instance, only 19 countries will reach the MDG target for reduction of maternal mortality by 2015. Improved access to medicines has been constrained by trade and intellectual property policies and practices, among others.

Ensuring universal health coverage can help ensure the health security of millions of vulnerable people worldwide, advancing progress on the social goals that are integral to SD.

TF 2: Health and the Green Economy (Speaker: Minister Brazil/Thailand)

Strategies aimed at developing a green economy can yield major health co-benefits. Some of those strategies can also create health risks unintended health risks, and it is crucial therefore to include health in the planning of green growth strategies. Examples from the "Health in the Green Economy" analyses will illustrate in this session, the many ways that better health can be an outcome of SD, yielding win-wins from economic investments. For instance:

- Sustainable, well designed cities, can reduce health risks from outdoor air pollution, traffic injuries, physical inactivity and lead to improvements in heart and respiratory diseases.
- Food and agriculture. Policies for healthier and more sustainable food production and consumption need to also combat obesity and malnutrition, through greater access to healthy foods.
- Sustainable Energy for all - Access to clean modern household energy could help halve childhood pneumonia rates and save one million lives annually from COPD, mostly among women. Access to modern energy sources, including renewables, could help thousands of energy-poor clinics provide vital procedures more reliably.
- Green workplaces - Green economies also need to ensure that workplaces are safer from risks of occupational illness and injury. These include risks of injuries, chronic air pollution or chemical exposures. As part of a "green economy" we need a renewed commitment to assessing and reducing these risks in both traditional as well as emerging "green" technologies.

TF 3: Health as a measure of SD achievements; measuring progress and impact (TBD Minister UK or NORWAY)

Health is an important measure of progress on SD. Health-relevant indicators provide a powerful means of measuring progress across the social, economic and environmental pillars of SD.

SD milestones need to integrate its economic, environmental and health/social dimensions, using new generation tools and metrics, to monitor achievements. Such measures should be integral to any new set of global goals developed to follow on from the MDGs after 2015.

Outcomes related to health can be measured with relative ease and will generate both public and political support for SD goals. Examples of health indicators will be given regarding 1) progress on universal health access and coverage and 2) health co-benefits and risks from SD/GE strategies being discussed in Rio.

Conclusion: by MOH Brazil, Dr Alexandre Padilha
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