First European-American Migration Health Platform Workshop


Remarks as delivered by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David J. Kostelancik
at the First European-American Migration Health Platform (FEAMHP) Workshop
Pécs, Hungary
October 20, 2017


Distinguished panel members, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!

Thank you for this invitation to join you here in Pécs for the closing session of this workshop — the inaugural gathering of the First European-American Medical Health Platform.  This event offers a unique opportunity for conversation on a subject that affects all of us as human beings – health.

In our increasingly inter-connected world – a world in which we can move between cities, climates, continents more quickly and easily than ever in history – a dialogue about protecting an individual’s health must include discussion about protecting the health of our entire community — whether that means neighbors in the house just down the road or in a country just a quick flight, train, or boat ride away.

Increasing international travel for tourism, business — and especially transnational migration — poses special challenges to global health and to health care providers and researchers everywhere.  Health security is national security:  our ability to combat infectious disease threats and prevent health emergencies is fundamental to our work.  From preparing to combat possible pandemics to meeting the unique physical and mental health needs of vulnerable people displaced by violent conflict or natural disasters, these are questions with complex answers.  Health security requires each country to do its part, and to have the capacities in place to prevent, detect, and respond to health emergencies, as outlined in the WHO International Health Regulations.

This month at the Gates Foundation Global Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, Secretary of State Tillerson said,

As those of you who have dedicated yourselves professionally to global health and other fields of international development know, the challenges we have all committed to solve require a clear vision, a plan of action, dedicated individuals, and a constancy of purpose to complete the mission. While victory is not tomorrow, probably not next month or next year, or maybe not even the year after that, we all arise every day with the belief that “one day” – “one day” is coming.

Initiatives like the First European-American Medical Health Platform help to bring that day “one day” closer.  This Platform convenes and provides a network for ongoing discussions of purpose, vision, and action by committed professionals.  I applaud your efforts here to exchange best practices and experiences, and to state your common goals and expectations.

As I look around this beautiful hall, I see experts, doctors, advocates from various countries with different backgrounds, but sharing the same goals.  I am especially proud that today’s event was inspired by the professional success and contributions of alumni of U.S. programs, like the U.S. Government’s Fulbright program and the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

And here I would like to take the opportunity to recognize Professor Istvan Szilard, Chief Scientific Adviser of the University of Pecs Medical School and recipient of the European Parliament’s 2017 European Citizen’s Prize.  He is not only one of the main organizers and keynote speakers of this event, he and his colleagues in the Faculty of Migration Health are also International Visitor Leadership Program alumni.

The network of alumni of U.S. programs spans many disciplines and professional associations – from academia to government, civil society to business.  When working together, this community is a unique asset, one that can offer a cross-sectoral perspective on issues faces our planet today – particularly those issues that require international cooperation and coordination to resolve, such as the European migration crisis of 2015 and its ensuing questions.

The United States certainly does not have all the answers, but we’re happy to support and participate in a robust discussion of these issues with both scientific experts and representatives of local stakeholders, including participants from hospitals, schools, NGOs, and community organizations across Europe and the United States.  We recognize the value of international cooperation – no country can do it alone, and by working together, we can coordinate our efforts across disciplinary, sectoral, and geographic boundaries.

It is an honor for the U.S. Embassy to support an international platform that will improve the health and health care options for our neighbors – both literally and figuratively.

International cooperation is especially important in the case of migrant health, where people are passing from one health system to the next – and are often exposed to a variety of physical, mental, and environmental health risks along the way.  Integrating migrant health considerations into health system planning and health delivery is fundamentally good practice – for protecting the health of migrants – whether displaced families and refugees, victims of trafficking, or people choosing to pursue study and employment opportunities abroad – and their host communities alike.

I especially thank the University of Pécs Medical School and the Faculty of Migration Health for hosting this event.  And I would also like to recognize the work of Dr. Kia Gooleshorki and Dr. Szabolcs Fekete, Dr. Szilárd, everyone at Health Leaders Association, and especially the volunteers working to make everything possible.

I’d also like to recognize the outstanding work being done across the United States on this topic, including by the U.S.-sponsored participants we have with us today.  It’s essential to engage with the private sector, civil society, and local governments to tackle the tasks at hand.

And I thank all of you for traveling here today – whether from down the road or from across the ocean – to share your talents.  Bringing together the best minds in the world – no matter where they come from – sheds more light on vexing problems, and generates the possibility of novel solutions.  I look forward to hearing more about you, your organizations, and how this First European-American Health Platform inspires new partnerships and projects.

Thank you, Köszönöm szépen!