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PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH, THE HON. R. HUNT, MP

OVERSEAS VISIT

WHILST IN CANADA I MET THE CANADIAN MINISTER FOR HEALTH, . MME MONIQUE BEGIN, P.C., M.P., IN OTTAWA. THE DIRECTOR- . GENERAL FROM THE AUSTRALIAN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DR GWYNN HOWELLS, DR ROBERT GUMMING, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL, AND

I HAD LENGTHY DISCUSSIONS WITH SENIOR OFFICERS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH IN CANADA ABOUT ACTIONS THAT THEY WERE TAKING ABOUT PREVENTATIVE HEALTH AND HEALTH EDUCATION MATTERS. ALSO THE OPERATION OF THE HEALTH INSURANCE SYSTEM IN CANADA. CANADA IS ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT THE EVER-MOUNTING COST OF HEALTH CARE.

WE VISITED TORONTO AND ALSO THE TORONTO ALCOHOL AND DRUG FOUNDATION WHICH IS ONE OF THE LARGEST FOUNDATIONS OF ITS TYPE IN THE WORLD. WE HAD EXTENSIVE DISCUSSIONS WITH THEM ABOUT ANTI-DRUG AND ALCOHOL EDUCATION. WE LOOKED AT THE CLINIC AND

DISCUSSED WITH THEM THE METHODS OF TREATMENT OF SUCH PATIENTS.

WE ALSO MET THE ONTARIO MINISTER FOR HEALTH, THE HON. DENIS TIMBRELL, MP, AND TALKED ABOUT THE ONTARIO HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (OHIP) AND THE OPERATION OF HEALTH INSURANCE IN THE STATE OF ONTARIO. IT IS A HEALTH INSURANCE SYSTEM VERY SIMILAR TO THE SYSTEM THAT OPERATES IN AUSTRALIA. I WAS LEFT WITH THE

IMPRESSION THAT CANADA IS ONLY JUST BEGINNING TO TAKE SERIOUSLY THE NEED TO PROMOTE HEALTHIER LIFE-STYLES OR TO EMBARK UPON A HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAM. RESOURCES HAVE MOSTLY BEEN GOING

INTO SCHEMES TO PAY FOR HEALTH COSTS.

CANADA IS ALSO MOVING TO LIMIT THE NUMBER OF DOCTORS IN THE COMMUNITY BECAUSE THEY ARE RUNNING INTO A DOCTOR SURPLUS SITUATION. THEY ARE ALSO VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE MOUNTING HEALTH COST BILL. :

HAD DISCUSSIONS IN U.K. WITH THE MOST SENIOR OFFICIALS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND HEALTH ABOUT THEIR HEALTH PROMOTION AND HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAMS, AND THE NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICES IN THE U.K. I ALSO MET WITH AND DISCUSSED WITH THE BRITISH UNITED PROVIDENT ASSOCIATION (BUPA) THE PRINCIPLE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE ORGANISATION FUND IN THE U.K.

HAD THE OPPORTUNITY OF MEETING THE NEW MINISTER FOR HEALTH IN THE U.K., DR GERRIE VAUGHAN, MP , WHO WAS MOST INTERESTED IN THE RECENT HEALTH INSURANCE CHANGES IN AUSTRALIA. I EXTENDED AN INVITATION TO HIM TO VISIT AUSTRALIA.

THE DISCUSSIONS WITH HEALTH OFFICIALS, MINISTERS, ETC. IN BOTH COUNTRIES INDICATED THAT MOST COUNTRIES ARE RECOGNISING THE NEED FOR PREVENTATIVE HEALTH MEASURES AND FOR HEALTH EDUCATION, BUT TO DATE THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN MUCH

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PROGRESS. MOST COUNTRIES ARE STILL STRUGGLING TO FIND SUFFICIENT RESOURCES TO FUND THE COST OF HEALTH TREATMENT AND THE HOSPITAL SYSTEMS. THERE IS NO. DOUBT THAT HEALTH COSTS ARE A MATTER OF GREAT CONCERN TO MOST WESTERN COUNTRIES. '

THE WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY IN.GENEVA (W.H.A.)

I ADDRESSED THE W.H.A. ON TUESDAY, 8 MAY 1979, ON BEHALF OF AUSTRALIA AND FIRMLY ENDORSED.. THE MAIN POLICY THRUST AT THE ASSEMBLY. THAT WAS THE DESIRE TO SEEK A COMMITMENT FROM ALL COUNTRIES TO PROGRAM TO SEEK BETTER HEALTH FOR ALL PEOPLE BY THE YEAR 2000.

I WAS MOST IMPRESSED WITH THE WAY IN WHICH THE W.H.A. IS CONDUCTED AND WITH THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE MADE AVAILABLE FOR THE TECHNICAL PEOPLE TO GET DOWN TO THE HARD CORE ISSUES OVER THE THREE WEEK PERIOD. AUSTRALIAN TECHNICAL OFFICERS ARE

STILL IN GENEVA.

DURING OUR RETURN TO AUSTRALIA WE VISITED ROME AND ATHENS, AND MET WITH THE MEDICAL OFFICERS AND OTHER DEPARTMENTAL PEOPLE AT OUR POSTS IN THOSE CITIES. . .

FROM DISCUSSIONS WE HAVE HAD GENEVA AND ELSEWHERE, I AM LEFT WITH NO DOUBT THAT AUSTRALIA IS NOT ALONE IN ENDEAVOURING TO FIND SUFFICIENT RESOURCES TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF HEALTH CARE. AUSTRALIA IS PROBABLY DOING MORE TO ENSURE THAT WE GET THE

BEST VALUE IN HEALTH CARE FOR DOLLARS SPENT THAN MOST COUNTRIES IN THE WESTERN. WORLD AT THE PRESENT TIME.

CANBERRA, 23 MAY 1979

ADDRESS GIVEN BY THE MINISTER FOR HEALTH, THE HON. RALPH HUNT, MP TO THE 32ND WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY IN GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, MAY 1979.

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Vice Presidents, Ladies and . Gentlemen, Firstly, I wish to congratulate you Mr President, on your election to the most distinguished office of this Assembly.

I have no doubt that, under your able guidance, the 32nd Assembly will achieve much in furthering the objectives of the World Health Organisation. .

Before discussing the Director-General's report, and his most stimulating address, may I take this opportunity to respond on behalf of the Australian Government, to the appeal which Dr Mahler made last year to the political leaders of the world.

The Australian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, has expressed his government's general agreement with Dr Mahler's, philosophy concerning the attainment of an acceptable level of health for all people by the year 2000. ·

Australia has always been - indeed it will continue to be - sympathetic to requests for technical assistance in meeting health care needs, such as the improvement of water supplies and sewerage systems; the eradication of infectious diseases; the implementation of nutrition and family planning programs and the training of health workers.

Mr President, in his address last year, the Director-General emphasised the apolitical nature of health activities.

I strongly endorse his views.

Collaborative activities in the health field can build bridges between peoples of widely different social, economic and political backgrounds. i

This Assembly itself is an outstanding example of how health workers from all countries -'be they politicians, bureaucrats or professional workers in the field - can come together to discuss common problems, set common goals, and join in the common struggle

against disease and disability.

With this in mind we believe that issues of a political kind . should never be imported into the proceedings of specialised technical bodies, thereby detracting from the proper work and the focus of interest of those bodies.

We would be especially opposed to importing political differences into W.H.O., an organisation whose work, being concerned with matters vital to all men, must transcend political divisions.

Furthermore, as W.H.O. is occupied with questions of fundamental importance to the existence, growth and well being of all mankind, we consider it essential that the organisation have and maintain a universal membership. .

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Vie do not believe that differences of view among the membership ■ should ever be allowed to diminish our attachment to that principle of universality. ·

Mr President, although there can be no argument that the universal attainment of an acceptable level of health is a major social objective, I think all of us will agree that this must go hand in hand with other social processes.

The meeting of objectives such as the elimination of poverty and hunger, the establishement of individual freedom, and the elimina­ tion of racial, religious and other forms of discrimination is essential if we are to attain our goal in health.

It is also important, to remember that it is the policies pursued by individual countries, which hold the key to social and economic development of the world as a whole.

While the work of W.H.O. is indisputably of immense value, especially in stimulating change and advancement, we cannot escape the unfortunate fact that, in the context of the massive health problems confronting the world, W.H.O. can have only a relatively minor impact on the actual development processes. ■

The health of each nation remains pre-eminently the responsibility of the government of the country concerned.

I turn now to the Director-General's annual report which, once again, is an exceptionally informative and interesting document.

Dr Mahler and his secretariat are to be congratulated upon. it.

The report makes it clear that the highest priority is to be given to primary health care as the single most important approach towards the goal of health for all by the year 2000.

The declaration of Alma Ata reaffirmed this commitment and stressed that primary health care is the key to the attainment of the goal.

Mr President, I support this emphasis on primary health care, which is of particular relevance to Australia in relation to one social group.

We have found W.H.O.1s thinking on this subject most helpful.

The common theme in the two programs is the need for special types of health workers who are integrated into the particular community and cultural setting in which they will work.

The Australian Government's policy in this regard includes a commitment to self-management and self-sufficiency by the aboriginal people, including responsibility for establishing their own priorities and managing their own programs.

I am pleased to say that the aboriginals, generally, are becoming more active in regard to their own health and welfare, and many . worthwhile projects have been started on their initiative..

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I refer to our aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the Australian continent, who had been there for some 30,000 years before the first settlers arrived from Europe.

Although many have taken their places in the Australian community, many still live in remote areas of our continent; while some have settled on the fringes of urban areas.

In both cases, special approaches have been required for the delivery of primary health care.

Indeed, these approaches have been developed along similar'lines . to the concepts of primary care advanced by W.H.O. .

Much credit must be given to them for their involvement and increasing motivation.

Mr President, many other sections of the Director-General's report are also of considerable interest to Australia.

The Health Manpower Development Program is a case in point.

The lack of appropriately-trained manpower is probably the single most important problem facing the heatlh services of the world ' today. .

In this respect, the W.H.O. network of regional teacher training centres has been playing a most important and catalytic role.

Australia is very pleased that one of the first such centres was established in Sydney., at the University of New South Wales.

This centre, which aims to increase the competence of teachers of health sciences within W.H.O.'s Western Pacific Region and within Australia, is proving most effective in meeting the needs of the area in this regard. : .

Australia itself is benefiting greatly from the expertise available in the centre. : . .

Mr President, our participation in the regional teacher training centre scheme is an example of Australia's desire to work closely with its neighbours in the Pacific and in South East Asia, both directly and through the W.H.O.

Another area of health activity which can benefit from co-operation between member states is the search for solutions to problems ' caused by the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Australia is vitally concerned in this matter, both for its own people and for those of its neighbouring countries.

Accordingly, I am very pleased that Australia is to host the first Pan-Pacific Conference on drugs and alcohol, to be held in Canberra in February next year.

There is a wealth of views and scientific information to be exchanged on this subject between countries of the Asian and Pacific areas. . .

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1 am confident that the conference will lead to significant advancement in our knowledge.

This prompts me to stress once again the vital role which health can play in building bridges between countries of vastly different political, ethnic and religious backgrounds.

It is Australia's fervent hope that these bridges will become ever stronger, leading ultimately to good health for all peoples and peace for the world.

Mr President, in closing may I once again offer my congratulations to you on your election to this high and responsible office.

I congratulate the Director-General upon his most.compelling address and his most valuable report. '