Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and a great honour to be here with you at the World Health Organization this morning for World Health Day.
In the 21st century, information and communication technologies have become key enablers in every facet of human activity, and mobiles have become the most widely-adopted technology in human history – with over 6.4 billion active subscriptions today and over 90% of the world’s population covered by a mobile network.
Mobile phones have unique advantages in the health sector, in being available, accessible, affordable and portable – as well as being both innovative and empowering.
They provide access to services for those who are not easily able to engage with the formal health system – including women as well as marginalized, illiterate, poor and disabled populations – and they provide a platform which is available 24/7.
In this respect, I was very pleased to be able to jointly launch, with Dr Chan, the Be Healthy, Be Mobile initiative earlier this year.
Be Healthy, Be Mobile focuses on the use of mobile technology to respond to non-communicable diseases, which remain the biggest killer of our time, causing 63% of all deaths annually, in the areas of prevention, treatment and policy enforcement and targeting specific disease risk factors – which of course include high blood pressure.
Where mHealth is concerned, ITU joins forces with WHO to share our long-standing experience and our competence in mobile technologies and healthcare as well as our network and partnerships.
WHO will provide the technical assistance and play the role of guarantor for the quality of the health-related content.
ITU will help implement country projects in partnership with governments and with the support from the private sector, NGOs and front-line implementers.
Together, we are now developing an approach for countries that works at scale – an approach based on evidence and taking into account all the lessons we have learnt from the mHealth world over the past few years.
The mHealth initiative will be targeting eight countries during an initial four-year period, with at least one country drawn from each region. Countries will choose interventions that best suit their individual needs.
I was personally very encouraged just a couple of weeks ago to meet the Costa Rican health minister who shared with me her enthusiasm about Costa Rica being the first country to implement a national mHealth service to help smokers quit, using SMS-based intervention, with the support of ITU and WHO.
Both ITU and WHO are well positioned as the lead UN agencies for ICT and health to create a collaboration platform and to work with all stakeholders.
We welcome your interest in working with us and invite you to join us in this new and ambitious initiative.
So let me close by challenging all of you to come up with innovative solutions through new forms of partnerships and alliances.
As many of you will know, I am an optimist, and I am happy to say that my optimism has been generously rewarded.
We have achieved much, together.
And together, we will achieve much, much more.