Statement at General Debate World Health Assembly

Thank you, Chair/Mr President,

Director General,

Norway welcomes the theme of this year's general debate. The ambitious new Sustainable Development Agenda should guide our actions for the next 15 years. Now we all must find effective ways to turn it into policies and realities, both nationally and globally.

The new Agenda follows the global success story of the Millennium Development Goals. The new Global strategy on Women's, Children's and Adolescents' health will help us keep global and national momentum on the unfinished MDG agenda, while integrating new aspects from the SDGs.

The new agenda, however, challenges us in new ways. First – these Goals

provide impetus for countries at all stages of development, due to their universal nature. As a minister of health, I have started an internal process to identify which health targets should be given most attention at national level. Norway will make our first report to the UN on our follow-up of the 2030 agenda this summer.

With a total of 13 health targets, the 2030 agenda is a broad health agenda. I therefore believe the World Health Organization has a particularly important role in guiding us, member states, on how we should shape and implement national policies. How should we prioritize with limited resources to ensure that we improve the health of all, including the hardest to reach?

We are asking ourselves this question while facing a global NCD epidemic, which threatens to overload our health and care services. Global populations are ageing. Mental health problems are restricting younger people from developing and realizing their potential. And globalization makes new pandemics not a matter of if, but when, even though we are going to do what we can to prevent them.

I believe the answer lies in finding the right approach to health system strengthening. The achievement of universal health coverage and investing in health personnel are key elements in this, and I am pleased that both are among the health targets.

I am glad that you, Dr Chan, attach special importance to these targets, because they are key to achieving all other health targets. Succeeding in achieving universal health coverage will not only benefit those who acquire improved or entirely new access to health care. Health is a major equalizer in society, and securing the right to health for the weakest and the poorest, is a gain for all.

This, Dr Chan, represents a major task for WHO in the years to come. Helping Member States finding the right interventions is your job. Remind us – constantly - that health system strengthening should begin with preventive and primary health interventions locally, so that we reach all and limit the burden on specialized services.

This was also my starting point in the UN High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth. The health needs of today and tomorrow, and the truly dreadful prospect of future pandemics, make it necessary to massively increase global investments in health personnel.

This investment provides an opportunity to strengthen the position of women in society, and to advance towards the broader SDG agenda, reflecting the integrated nature of the goals. It will spur economic growth. This Assembly will consider and hopefully adopt the new health personnel strategy, which will be a vital tool in realizing our 2030 commitments.

We all know that health is created in other sectors. The emphasis on the integrated nature of the new Agenda demonstrates this fully. We are being challenged to address health determinants rather than only focus on cure. Establishing coherent, cross-sectoral public health policies is a more effective contributor to good health than doubling the hospital budgets: Accessible preventive and primary health services locally, quality education, reduced air pollution, good city planning and strategic taxation of unhealthy products are all important measures if we want to improve the health of our citizens. We, Ministers of health, have to be SDG champions at home, and challenge our Heads of Government and peers.

Thank you.