Physicians should engage public in **battle** to improve health care

(15.10.2010) A call to physicians to engage the public in the battle to improve health has come from the outgoing President of the World Medical Association, Dr. Dana Hanson.

In his valedictory speech as President at the WMA's annual Assembly in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Hanson said that financial crises often resulted in slashed health budgets ‘but why is there no outcry by the public that the disease burden remains the same or greater?'

He said that during his year as President, the WMA had highlighted health and the environment - ‘something which regardless of causes will touch untold millions of people in a very real and concrete way when it comes to their health.'

But he asked why patients were so surprised when physicians pointed this out to them in their clinics and hospitals.

Dr. Hanson said these were just two examples of where the WMA had a role in partnership with national medical associations in engaging the public to realise that in order to address their individual concerns they must be partners with the medical profession and other healthcare professionals.

He said that governments across the world had not been educated by the right people when it came to heath issues. Why, he asked, did the climate change conference in Copenhagen last year have no reference to health in its final draft. Why were 80 percent of the observers industry based and only a handful of health care representatives and environmentalists?

Why did governments always listen to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund about our economic health often to the detriment of public and individual health?

Why were health systems seen as a cost centre when they had been proven to be a positive economic investment? And why with a resurgence of infectious diseases and drug resistance were there common drug shortages and a paucity of new drug innovation?

‘Part of the answer to these vital questions is that we, along with the public, have not educated governments and industry. They have only heard part of the story. Yet the public and the medical profession together represent a powerful force that no government could oppose.
The World Medical Association and national medical associations have a vital role in society not just at the bedside but indeed well beyond.'