HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. Addresses the World Health Assembly

HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. Addresses the World Health Assembly


Madame President, Director-General Chan, fellow
Ministers, distinguished leaders, guests what an honor it is to make my first visit to the World
Health Assembly. As a third generation physician, and just the third physician to hold the position
of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the United States government, being here today is
a remarkable privilege. I want to especially thank the President of
the World Health Assembly and Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. Madam Director-General, congratulations on
the completion of your tenure, and thank you for your leadership over the last ten years. You have pursued essential reforms that will
make WHO more transparent, more effective, and more accountable. We also look forward to the election tomorrow
of the next Director-General from the three highly qualified candidates in the running. Whoever is the next Director-General, he or
she must bring a renewed commitment to transforming WHO into the organization necessary to accomplish
the mission. We look forward to working together
on an agenda for ongoing improvements. That means recognizing WHO’s excellence
and expertise, but also taking a clear-eyed view of what needs to change for it to fulfill
that most important mission: ensuring a rapid and focused response to potential global health
crises. Reform, with this focus, must be this organization’s
Number One priority. Some of the accomplishments in which WHO has
played a leading role, such as the extinction of smallpox, would have been unthinkable when
my grandfather graduated from medical school in 1908. We look forward to realizing many more such victories
together, including the eradication of polio. Infectious diseases, of course, are not WHO’s
only job—it has a role in addressing non-communicable diseases and threats, as well. But as we saw during the Ebola crisis, preparation
for the possibility of cross-border infectious threats must be our top concern. We want to emphasize today just how committed
the United States is to a cooperative, transparent and effective international response to outbreaks
of infectious disease. These threats do not respect borders between
countries, and can spread rapidly to endanger people anywhere around the globe. We expect the next Director-General and WHO
Health Emergencies Program to prioritize threats to global health, including influenza. We will work to enable all countries around
the world to prevent, detect, respond to, mitigate, and control these outbreaks. For that reason, we must express the United
States’ disappointment that, contrary to the custom of the past eight years, an invitation
was not extended to Taiwan to observe this year’s Assembly. The United States remains committed that Taiwan
should not be excluded from WHO. Furthermore, the United States affirms its
strong support for the Global Health Security Agenda. The United States is dedicated to building
capacity to comply with the International Health Regulations, and to find and stop disease
outbreaks around the world, whether they occur naturally, accidentally, or by deliberation. We are also committed to realizing multi-sectoral
partnerships with other nations, international organizations, and non-governmental stakeholders,
including the private sector. WHO cannot succeed in its mission without
incorporating the perspectives of extra-governmental entities. The United States also appreciates the growing
attention within WHO on the topic of access to medicines. Access to safe, effective medicines is central
to improving global public health, and our government stands ready to engage on ways
to expand access to medicines while protecting the incentives that spark new innovation. This work requires diligence, focus, and commitment
from every single one of us in this room, and I want to state clearly that the United States will
be a steadfast partner with you. The United States wants, and we all need,
a strong WHO. The distinguished history of this organization
should be an inspiration for the work we will do together for the health and prosperity
of all nations. I thank you for your attention today. We look forward to the work of the next several
days, and the years to come. I’m honored to join you. Thank you so much.

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