New York, 19 September 2011


Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th Session General Assembly of the United Nations,
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, 
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Ms. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization,
Your Royal Highness Dina Mired, Princess of Jordan, representative of the Union for International Cancer Control
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate the United Nations and the World Health Organization for holding this High-Level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases.

The successes we achieved in past meetings drive us to continue moving forward on the global health agenda. On the two previous occasions, we changed the paradigms for preventing polio and tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Today, we grapple with the question of those who suffer from diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory diseases.

The driving force behind our determination and commitment to curb these diseases is the premature loss of life and the suffering of people and their families. 

In my country, 72% of non-violent deaths among those less than 70 years old are due to these diseases. They impact the poorest and most vulnerable. 

Moreover, the productivity losses and the costs incurred by families and by the Unified Health System (SUS) add up to the equivalent of 1% of our GDP.

Mr. President,

Brazil sustains that access to medication is part of the human right to health. We know that it is a strategic element for fostering social inclusion, building equality and strengthening public healthcare systems.

One of my government's first actions was to increase access through the Unified Health System to medication for patients with hypertension and diabetes. The "Health is Priceless" program distributes these medications free of charge, through partnerships with over 20,000 public and private drugstores. In the first seven months of my government, this effort reached 5.4 million Brazilians, tripling the number of patients thus benefited.

Increasing access to new therapies and technologies is also important. Brazil respects its intellectual property commitments. Yet we are convinced that the flexibilities contained in the WTO's TRIPS Agreement, in the "Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health" and in the World Health Organization's "Global Strategy on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property" are indispensable for policies that guarantee the right to health.

Mr. President,

The defense of access to medication must go hand in hand with promoting health and prevention. For this reason, we in Brazil are intensifying our fight against the risk factors with greatest influence on the onset of these diseases: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, lack of physical activity and unhealthy diet.

We are promoting the reformulation of urban spaces. The "Health Gym Program" envisions the creation of 4,000 new centers dedicated to supervised physical activity. The Brazilian government has also been taking measures to guarantee better eating habits, by encouraging breastfeeding, the labeling of foodstuffs and healthy eating in schools. My government has also established voluntary agreements with the food industry for the elimination of trans-fats and the reduction of sodium content in their products.

We want to go even further in combating the use of tobacco, fully implementing the articles of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Recently, we raised taxes on cigarettes and we are combating their illegal production and sale. To tackle the harmful use of alcohol, we have implemented a zero-tolerance law that forbids driving by those who have consumed alcohol.

Women's health is a priority for my government. We are strongly committed to reducing mortality rates linked to breast cancer - the most common kind - and cervical cancer, which is still a serious health issue in more vulnerable areas, particularly the Amazon. 

Therefore, we are facilitating access to preventive examinations, improving mammogram quality and expanding treatment for cancer victims.

Mr. President,

This meeting of Heads of State from around the world must take decisive steps towards reducing the occurrence of non-communicable diseases!

Their disproportionate incidence among the poorest demonstrates the need for a comprehensive response to the problem. Policies related to health must be coordinated with those that address the socio-economic determinants of these diseases. In light of this issue's central importance for Brazil and for the world, my country, together with the WHO, will hold the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health. I invite all of you to participate in the Conference, to be held from October 19th to the 21st, in Rio de Janeiro.

Thank you very much.