Addressing the World Health Assembly in Geneva last month, WHO Director-General Emeritus Dr. Halfdan Mahler spoke of "the transcendental beauty and significance" of the WHO Constitution's definition of health, and the vision of "Health for All" embodied in the 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration. As conceived, this was a level of health that would permit people to live socially and economically productive lives. "The Health Assembly did not consider health as an end in itself, but rather as a means to an end," he said. He warned, however, that without "renewed local and global battles for social and economic equity in the spirit of distributive justice, we shall indeed betray the future of our children and grandchildren."
Later, at a dinner honoring Yohei Sasakawa's reappointment as Goodwill Ambassador, Mahler pursued the same theme. "Mark Twain said, 'When you part with your illusions you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.' My personal problem with today's cruel social and economic world, where the few have far too much and the many, many, many more have far too little, is that I increasingly see and feel my illusions becoming mere hallucinations.
"We live, in my opinion, in a socially and economically unjust world and a politically dubious world to put it mildly. But, of course, the brave fight for equitable social justice in health must continue everywhere, and not least in the struggle for the global elimination of leprosy.
"Ambassador Sasakawa is a shining example of a brave and successful fighter for justice for all human beings affected by leprosy with all its moral, social and economic discriminations. I express once more my admiration of Ambassador Sasakawa for his bravery and above all his persistence."