Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Returned from a 10 days trip to Brazil and Portugal”


“Minister of Health, Prof. Dr. Nelson Martins,MD,MHM,PhD

Returned from a 10 days trip to Brazil and Portugal”

Dr. Nelson Martins, Minister of Health, joined Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Rio de Janeiro for the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, held 19-21 of October 2011, to express determination to achieve social and health equity through action on social determinants of health and well-being by a comprehensive intersectoral approach.

The conference brought together over 1000 participants representing more than 124 WHO Member States and a diverse group of stakeholders. The key message addressed by all in the “Rio Political Declaration on Social Determinants of Health” was that of a health equity being a shared responsibility which requires the engagement of all sectors of government, of all segments of society, and of all members of the international community. Representatives of Governments committed themselves to strive individually and collectively to develop and support policies, strategies, programmes and action plans, which address social determinants of health.

When asked about the relevance of this World Conference to Timor-Leste, Minister Nelson Martins replied “our country deals regularly with several determinants of health which constitutes a barrier to pursue of better health for the Timorese people”. He added further that “the long journey to Rio de Janeiro was all worthwhile as the health sector is essential to sustainable development of any country, in particular for a young country like Timor-Leste… health must be at the heart of every institutional setting and included in every sector’s political agenda. The biggest challenge I face as a Minister is how to ensure that the increased General State Budget or donor funding for the health services are complemented by harmonized initiatives from other social, cultural and economic tiers of the state to allow for a sustainable development of our country”.
The last day of the Conference was concluded with an Extraordinary Meeting of Ministers of Health of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP). The main objective was to update country members on the progress made to the Strategic Plan for Cooperation in Health 2009-2012 or PECS/CPLP (Plano Estratégico de Cooperação em Saúde), of which Timor-Leste has been benefiting greatly in the area of Human Resources Development.

Minister Martins stopped in Portugal on the way back to Dili from Brazil for a two days visit, following from an invitation of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, an important development partner from Portugal which has been supporting training of Nurses and Midwives in Timor-Leste through the former Institute of Health Science (now National Health Institute). Soon after landing in Lisbon, a busy schedule awaited the delegation, including a meeting with Timorese Medical Students in Lisbon and also another meeting arrange by Timorese Student Association in Coimbra, a courtesy meeting with the Minister of Health of Portugal and a visit to the Institute of Health Technologies in Lisbon, followed by a presentation to students and health researchers on the importance of evidence based research for development of policies and decision-making in health related issues.

While in Portugal, His Excellency Dr. Nelson Martins was happy to learn that many Timorese students are committed to return back to work in Timor-Leste after they finish their university studies. As the Minister learned during the visit “Portugal offers very good study opportunities to Health Professionals and after meeting their Minister of Health, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the School of Health Technology I believe we can really strengthen our cooperation in the areas of continuous education for nurses, midwives, health technicians like laboratory, pharmacists and radiologists, as well as in medical specializations”. The Portuguese counterparts presented their interest in contributing towards the implementation the National Health Sector Strategic Plan 2011-2030, in sharing their different areas of expertise in health policy and regulation, research and training capacity.

Overall, the trip was a success and it is important now that continued relations with the Timorese Students and the Portuguese institutions are strengthened to allow for exchange of knowledge and experiences. Lastly, with regards to lessons learnt from the World Conference on Social Determinants of Health, full implementation of the Development Strategic Plan 2030 will testify the Government commitment towards a sustainable and healthier Timor-Leste.

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