Opening remarks by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion on 10 June 2013

It is my great pleasure to wish you all warmly welcome to Finland. I am delighted that the World Health Organization has decided to organize this important global meeting in Helsinki.

Health and the wellbeing of people are of utmost importance for all nations. Health is a pivotal precondition for achieving many other goals in our societies. Yet we need to remember that health is also an essential value in its own right.

Public health is a global issue. Infectious disease epidemics and non-communicable diseases – so called diseases of lifestyle – are issues that we all face.

Health also forms a central area of public policy making. Good public health does not simply include hospitals and a working health system. Rather, in addition to these, it requires the prevention of diseases and active promotion of wellbeing.

With this in mind, I am delighted that the eight Global WHO Conference on Health Promotion is underlining the importance of “Health in All Policies”. This approach rightly emphasizes that much of health is created outside the formal health sector. It highlights how policy decisions in many diverse sectors can influence determinants of wellbeing. International collaboration, sharing our experiences, has great potential to improve wellbeing around the world. This benefits us all.

In Finland we have aimed to increase the health of the entire population. It has not been a quick or an easy process. Starting from the end of the Second World War, and up to the early 1970’s, our public health situation was not particularly good.

Since then we have worked hard to amend the situation. This has been accompanied by positive developments in the educational and economic fields. Work has been carried out in good collaboration between the government, local authorities, professionals, civic organizations, experts and the private sector. Of course, a cornerstone has been the great involvement of the population.

The results have been positive. Rates of many serious diseases have been greatly reduced. Life expectancy has increased. And the general level of health has improved. Nevertheless, we must also continue our work to address remaining challenges.

In Finland the complimentary maternity package and our education system are good examples of how wellbeing is created with different means and through cross-sectoral cooperation. They both contribute to better health as well as social equality and could be used as models in other countries too.

The role of the World Health Organization, in advancing health, continues to be of central importance. Finland has been very pleased with our collaboration with the World Health Organization. We appreciate its many achievements and look forward to seeing the results of the ongoing – and important – WHO reform.

I thank the World Health Organization and all those who have participated in organizing this conference. I wish the eight Global Conference on Health Promotion every success!