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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré 

IFPMa Council Reception

 Remarks on IFPMA MHealth Partnership with ITU

06 November 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure and a great honour to be here with you at reception for the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, together with distinguished guests and IFPMA council members.

Back in July, during the Economic and Social Council meeting, I had the pleasure of co-hosting a high-level roundtable breakfast with Eduardo Pisani, the Director General of the IFPMA, at the UN Palais to discuss how to leverage Mobile Health for Non Communicable Diseases, NCDs.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts and perspectives on our recent partnership with IFPMA on the mHealth initiative that we launched with WHO to combat NCDs.

In the 21st century, information and communication technologies, ICTs, have become key enablers in every facet of human activity, and mobile cellular has become the most widely-adopted technology in human history.

Indeed, by the end of this year there will be almost as many mobile cellular subscriptions as there are people on the planet, and well over 90% of the world’s population is already covered by a mobile cellular 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 regard, I was very pleased to be able to jointly launch, with Margaret Chan, the Be Healthy, Be Mobile initiative late last year.

Be Healthy, Be Mobile focuses on the use of mobile technology to respond to NCDs – which we all know 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.

In this regard, we were very pleased to have recently signed a cooperation agreement with IFPMA to support this initiative.

We were also pleased to see that IFPMA published an important publication entitled ‘Health at your Fingertips’. This is a great example of how the private sector, and particularly pharmaceutical companies, can play an important role in contributing to advancing the use of technology for the benefit of all.

Many of you have already started to explore how mobile can strengthen your value-proposition and improve patient services, so that patients can take better control of their conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since the launch of the initiative, we were very encouraged to work with the Costa Rican health ministry to implement a national mHealth service to help smokers quit, using SMS-based intervention, with the support of ITU and WHO.

We are now moving to our second country, Senegal, to launch an mDiabetes programme to help the prevention and control of Diabetes, and also to provide training opportunities to community health workers as well as General Practitioners, especially in rural areas.

Further interventions will follow to tackle other NCDs, including hypertension, cancer, and others, and to address their risk factors by focusing on promoting healthier lifestyles.

The initiative is targeting eight countries in four years in different regions, and in particular countries with a high disease burden that can show strong leadership as a model that we can share with the rest of the world.

This initiative recognizes the particular strengths of the private sector – recognizing that the resources of government and philanthropy alone are insufficient to address the world’s biggest challenges, such as the NCD epidemic.

I am delighted that our host today, IFPMA, is a supporter of the mHealth initiative, and I am counting on your continuous support for this initiative over the coming years.

I hope that the individual pharmaceutical companies in the room will also come forward and join the initiative, along with other partners who come from the telecoms, insurance and healthcare sectors.

Distinguished guests,

We are just at the beginning of a longer journey.

Technology will continue to transform how care is provided, and I am therefore inviting you to seize this opportunity and to be at the forefront and among the first movers – for the benefit of your organizations as well as for end users and public health.

ITU and WHO are well-positioned as the lead UN agencies for ICTs and health to create a collaboration platform and to work with all stakeholders.

We welcome your interest in working with us, and we 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.

Thank you.