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World congress targets the health effects of globalization.

GLOBALIZATION has worsened poverty, living conditions and inequity between countries, resulting in poorer health around the world, according to a declaration issued by international health advocates in August.

The Rio Declaration, issued during the 11th World Congress on Public Health in Rio de Janeiro, calls on countries to break the "vicious cycle" of harm caused by globalization. Without such interventions, increased burdens will continue to be placed on the underprivileged and the world may not be able to meet health measures set under the Millennium Development Goals, according to the declaration. While acknowledging that the interdependence and information sharing offered through globalization could, in fact, break down such barriers, attendees concluded that globalization has instead worsened problems.

"There are many paths that could lead to breaking this cycle and instating instead a new model of development where the whole of humanity benefits from global prosperity, including living better in health," the declaration stated.

In particular, the declaration calls for eliminating social inequalities in access to health care, instigating research on social determinants of health, strengthening the public health work force, and developing community-based health systems. The declaration also called for fostering of "global solidarity and responsibility" to ensure "that every human being can live their lives with respect and dignity, thereby creating a better future for the next generations."

For the declaration to be a success, its recommendations must be transformed into an agenda for action, according to Barbara Hatcher, PhD, MPH, RN, interim secretary-general of the World Federation of Public Health Associations.

"If we cooperatively move forward to address the pitfalls of globalization, we can improve the health and lives of people around the world," Hatcher said.

Attendees at the World Congress on Public Health issued the declaration following five days of discussion on "Public Health in a Globalized World: Breaking Down Social, Economic and Political Barriers." The meeting was sponsored by WFPHA and the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, known as Abrasco.

The congress, held Aug. 21-25, attracted more than 11,000 participants--reportedly a record attendance level. Most of the attendees were from Brazil, but others came from throughout the world.

The meeting included debates, lectures, posters, workshops, panel sessions and a health expo. Sessions addressed a range of public health topics, including tobacco control, HIV/AIDS, pollution, health financing, pesticides and access to medicines. Delegates from the United States were part of sessions on a planned international system that is designed to improve environmental monitoring around the globe (see related article, left).

A highlight of the congress was a speech by Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who called for countries to create a joint effort against poverty and social inequities. Also of interest was a presentation by Paulo Buss, president of Fiocruz, the Brazilian government's immunobiological drug manufacturer. Buss presented the meeting's Hugh R. Leavell lecture on the impact of global economic policies on health.

APHA was represented well during the congress, with attendees including Association President Pat Mail, PhD, MPH, CHES; President-elect Deborah Klein Walker, EdD; Samir Banoob, PhD, MD, DM, chair-elect of APHA's International Health Section; and APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP.

"The emphasis on the environment's contribution to public health was very strong throughout the meeting," Mail said.

In addition to the congress, WFPHA also held its annual business meetings in Rio, installing S.M. Asib Nasim of Bangladesh as its new president and naming Paulo Buss of Brazil as vice president/president-elect. The federation welcomed three new public health associations--representing Serbia, Burkina Faso and Vietnam--into the federation, which now includes 73 member associations. WFPHA also presented its Institutional Award to Fiocruz, acknowledging its role in housing Brazil's public health association.

While recent world congress meetings held in the United Kingdom and China were successes, the Rio meeting stood out because it was "very active" and "very energetic," said attendee Peter Orris, MD, MPH, an APHA member. The WFPHA meeting was "excellent" as well, with good discussions and practical approaches, according to Orris, who is directing a WFPHA project on the health effects of environmental chemicals.

The next World Congress on Public Health will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2009.

For more on the congress, visit <www.saude coletiva2006.com.br>. For more on WFPHA, visit <www.wfpha.org>.
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Title Annotation:The GLOBE: Public health news from around the world
Publication:The Nation's Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Words:710
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