mercoledì 31 Maggio 2017

Intervento al Side event with Parliamentarians at the 70th World Health Assembly

Side event with Parliamentarians at the 70th World Health Assembly

Geneva 29-5-17

I am honoured to be here, at the second meeting of parliamentarians at the World Health Assembly. The first ever event happened last year and we addressed the topic “Parliaments as a key actor in ensuring access to health for all”. Last year’s event was an “historic” moment, but this year it is even more important in order to make this collaboration between the health community and us, parliamentarians, systematic and characterized by continuity.

I am happy I am here for the second time and eager to share some thoughts and experience on this year’s topic: bridging the gap between evidence and health policy.

I do not want to waste time in elaborating on the importance of keeping evidence at the core of our activity as parliamentarians, to guide our action in terms of legislation, budget, advocacy and accountability.

I just quote professor Elena Cattaneo, an Italian scientist, a world-wide known researcher in the field of stem cells, who, by the way, was appointed life senator in 2013 by the Italian President of the Republic.

“We are here (in Parliament) because it is here that science becomes a phenomenon for cohesion .and integration with political decisions. We simply have to find the proper words and strategies to make it clear and  understood that the aims of science and those of politics are not different.”

These words stress the link between science and our work of Parlamentarians.

This link must be even stronger in a period when misconceptions, fake news, false myths and faulty information have been widely disseminated.

We are in the so called “post truth” times when we experience, for example, the denial of human responsibility for climate change or opposition to vaccination caused by misguided and discredited claims about their dangers.

But evidence shows that vaccines are among the greatest achievements of medical science.

In Italy we had some cases where we have failed, or waited to long to listen to evidence.

One of these was the Dibella case. Di Bella is the name of a medecine doctor who “invented” a therapy to treat cance with no scientific evidence.

A more recent and even worse one was the Stamina case.

The Stamina method was advertised as a miraculous cure, based on stem cells properties, to treat different types of serious and often currently untreatable diseases. The method, invented by a…. psycologist, Davide Vannoni, was not supported by scientific evidence nor clinical trials, yet it received an official authorization in order to treat patients in Italy, in my region Lombardy, which is among the most advanced ones as for public health services.

I am proud to say that I was the one who in the Chamber of Deputies launched the alarm in order to stop treatments with this so-called scientific method. Finally we could stop it and Vannoni was convicted of fraud.

But it was not easy as the media played a role in supporting Stamina. Media are much more powerful than science and scientific evidence.

For this reason the role of MPs is important: we have the power to take decisions and pass laws even if challenging non-scientific but “popular/populistic” attitudes and beliefs involves some risks in terms of re-election.

Parliamentarians are uniquely placed to prioritize evidence based actions and investments that protect this right for the benefit of all. We can have numbers, data, evidence, with reference to women, children and adolescents health and we need to use them to influence government priorities and actions and to keep governments accountable.

But I insist: we need to keep the dialogue open and vital with the health experts to be sure that our action is based on the latest evidence.

In the current political situation we Parliamentarians need to be the channel of correct information and we are the only constituency that can keep government accountable for commitment taken.

In this respect I would just present the creation of the inter group (all Party parliamentary group on women’s rights and global health) as a key mechanisms through which the Parliament tackle issues related to women health, and how the group is driven or takes into account the value of evidence.

We worked on migrants women affected by FGMs (data coming from gynecologists working in hospitals,) on child marriages, (data coming from the National Statistics Institute), on putting sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Italian development cooperation….

I would in particular highlight how this group has the task to promote action on women’s and girls’ health and monitor action taken by government, a key role of parliamentarians in keeping government accountable for commitment taken

To conclude, let me report back from the Conference held at the begining of May in the Italian Parliament.

In the context of the current Italian Presidency of G7 the all party parliamentary Group together with AIDOS, an Italian NGO and EPF, an umbrella organization which coordinates the activity of Parliamentary Groups to implement the Cairo Agenda on Population and Development, organized the G7/G20 Parliamentarians conference to discuss on women and adolescents health in the context of migration crisis.

Our aim, as parliamentarians, was to position the issue within the agenda of G7 and call G7 countries for concrete actions to improve women and girls health, no matter where they come from, what their status is, but as a fundamental human right.

The conference ended with an official APPEAL handed over to the Italian G7 Presidency with the commitment of including the content of the appeal within the G7 agenda.

But our commitment and function as parliamentarians didn’t finish with the Appeal. We need now to ensure that governments are accountable for commitment taken.

With reference to COMMITMENT TO BE TAKEN, if you allow me, dear colleagues, our commitment doesn’t end either here, today.

We have been discussing on our crucial role in promoting women’s, children and adolescents health, but we are also called to take concrete actions on how these commitments are taken forward.

In Rome we had an interesting comment by a colleague from Cote d’Ivoire who raised a very important aspect in terms of budget. She was highlighting how many times parliamentarians are not aware of international aid funds received by the country and on how they are used, and how as a consequence parliamentarians are not able to keep government accountable for the use of these resources.

This could be a good example on how we – as a community – could change things, could really be effective. We could today commit to keep our government accountable on how resources are used to really improve women, children and adolescents health in countries. This would help us measuring if and how our action has an impact.

It would be great for us to commit on keeping an eye on what happens in our countries, influence the allocation of funds on key women, children and health priorities, based on evidence.

I welcome this collaboration with the World Health Organization and the global health community and I really hope we can reconvene here next here to see what we achieved.