The Deputy Minister for Health, António Lacerda Sales, underlined the importance of the “new” tools that “offer the possibility of preparing institutions and infrastructure for responses that are more concerted and more inclusive, resilient and sustainable, creating models of strengthened co-operation, partnerships and strategic alliances”.
During the closing session of the Conference on Global Health, organised by the Ministry of Health and the Directorate General of Health, he underscored the role of the EU in the procurement of masks, ventilators and individual protective equipment, and the support Portugal received from health professionals in other European Union countries.
António Lacerda Sales stressed Portugal’s role in international co-operation, in particular in Portuguese-speaking countries. “This is how it was with Ebola, for example, and it is proving the same with COVID-19, with our professional bodies – the Directorate General of Health, the Dr Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute and the Medical Emergency Institute – providing co-operation on the ground.”
During the closing session, Graça Freitas, Director General of Health, shared some of the key messages drawn from the Conference on Global Health. “I emphasise global health and health diplomacy within the framework of the European Union, global health in Africa, and the importance of partnerships and strategic alliances in EU-Africa co-operation,” she insisted. She also noted “the importance of leadership in the extent of universal health coverage, in the minimisation of the impact of climate change on health and in the ‘One Health’ approach, which is so significant in the response to challenges such as resistance to antimicrobial agents, health safety and preparation for future pandemics, in particular those caused by vector-transmitted diseases”.
In keeping with the declarations of the WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, who mentioned in the inaugural session that, “when health is at risk, everything is at risk”, Graça Freitas stated that “people’s health and welfare, underpinned by resilient health systems and the ability of countries to prevent, detect, and respond to cross-border health threats and natural catastrophes, have a significant impact on the economy, security and development”. She also considered it necessary to understand the multisectoral nature of health, for “the effective adoption of ‘health in all policies’ and – she would even say – of ‘all policies in health’”.
Over the day, the conference comprehensively addressed the topic of co-operation, more specifically with African countries, in particular in the “Global Health and Africa” panel. Magda Robalo, the High Commissioner for COVID-19 in Guinea-Bissau, warned that there it is not possible to “return to normal” after the pandemic in EU-Africa relations: “The relationship needs to be reconsidered and reformulated”, to “include the recognition that Africa is Europe’s closest neighbour”.
In the session on strategic alliances in the vaccination field, Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Africa, underscored the crucial role of the European Union in the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (for 2030): “The pandemic has shown that health threats can bring lives and economies to a standstill. Together, we can advocate to turn this experience into increased financing for health at a continental and at a country level”, with the all-round focus on rational integrated investment.
With regard to vaccination, for the panel on the “One Health” approach, Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), chose the topic of disinformaton, appealing for the international alignment of clinical guidelines.
She called for a “more proactive approach”, recommending the use of reliable information sources for people, like the European Vaccination Information Portal, an initiative of the EU, ECDC, and the European Medicines Agency.