Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Canadian Government "missing in action" at global health meeting

October 19, 2011

The World Conference on Social Determinants of Health got underway today in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, with visible concern from Canadian and global delegates regarding the absence at the conference of Ministers from Canada's federal government.

Over 60 Ministers of Health, including U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, prioritized participation in the global meeting, deeming it a critical stage on which to demonstrate commitment to local, national and global action in improving health around the world.

CACHCA Board Member and lead representative at the Rio conference, Jack McCarthy, described reactions on the ground in Brazil:

"There is a clear sense of disappointment and frustration here from Canadian delegates and our global partners that the Government of Canada has turned its back on this global gathering. On the one hand, it is exciting and encouraging to see Ministers of Health gathered from countries around the world, while on the other hand it is very troubling and quite embarrassing that Canada's Minister of Health and her government colleagues are conspicuously absent."

McCarthy noted the shared sense of frustration that Canadian delegates at the conference are dealing with in trying to explain the lack of Ministerial representation on the part of Canada: "Canadian delegates are at a loss for words, quite frankly. Global delegates are inquiring about Canada's absence when our country has, in the past, taken a lead on global cooperation related to action on health, including a critical role in bringing the WHO's Commission on Social Determinants of Health into being. We're left holding the bag, ourselves wondering why our federal government has decided to turn its back on the health of Canadians and on the global community."

The three-day world conference got underway this afternoon with addresses from Brazil's President and Minister of Health, the Director-General of the World Health Organization and other leaders who welcomed delegates and declared the conference officially open.

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