Esteemed President of Turkmenistan, Madam Regional Director, ministers, participants of the conference,
I would first like to thank our host country, Turkmenistan, for your generous hospitality. I am grateful to the WHO (for organising the conference and) for the opportunity to address this conference. I stand before you not as an elected official, because I am not, but as a medical doctor, a mother and wife, who for a number of years dealt with the issue of non-communicable diseases, both publicly and privately.
Why should we be concerned about non-communicable diseases? In 2000 the UN General Assembly agreed to the Millennium Development Goals, in which, in the section devoted to healthcare, focussed on maternal and child health and on communicable diseases. Unfortunately the Development Goals left out diseases that are also communicable, but not through bacteria and viruses. These diseases are socially communicable, we create these diseases ourselves and through our behaviour. We also can pass them on to our friends, our children and others around us. Moreover, we must recognise that a role is also played by those who produce and market the products that cause these diseases.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
A few years ago I called upon my compatriots in Estonia to avoid artificial trans-fats, the fats, created when hydrogen gas is used to treat liquid vegetable or animal oils to make them solid or semi-solid. These have been in use as cheaper substitutes for animal fats in processed foods. The link to heart disease was only scientifically proven in the early 1990s.
I suggested to the parents of our pre-school-age children to put healthier candy (or fruit) into their Christmas stockings instead of candy containing trans-fats. Many shrugged their shoulders in incomprehension, many in our food industry thought that I was incompetent and was endangering a successful domestic industry. I did not, however, back down. Eventually, when the media feeding-frenzy died down and people seriously examined the scientific literature, they changed their minds. And started to read the labels in the food stores.
"If abuse of alcohol and other lifestyle-related illnesses are one of the main causes of death, it is proof of a failed social policy. Let's think about our countries and citizens," Evelin Ilves, one of the opening speakers at the WHO European Ministerial Conference, said, calling for people, governments and producers to contain the spread of noncommunicable diseases as social illnesses. Noncommunicable diseases are the number one cause of death in the European Union member states.
Tomorrow, Evelin Ilves will be one of the opening speakers at the WHO European Ministerial Conference on the Prevention and Control Noncommunicable Diseases in the Context of Health 2020 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who arrived in New York to participate in the opening week of the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), and Evelin Ilves held a reception on Friday night with the Estonian Consulate in the Estonian House, New York, to acknowledge the local Estonian community.