(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
Farnesina, 4 October 2017
Honorable Giovanni Lolli,
Director Mariadonata Bellentani,
Director General Francesco Palumbo,
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the beginning of this year, the Bloomberg Health Index ranked us as the healthiest Country in the world.
It came as no surprise: also the statistics of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have long been placing us at the top of the rankings in terms of the longevity of Italians and the quality of our health care system.
Through its analyses, the WHO tells us that health no longer only means the treatment or the lack of disease but it means living a full life, physically, psychologically and socially.
That’s it: we Italians have this concept etched onto our DNA. And we can say that we are very much aware of the different aspects of “wellbeing” that arise from the environment, culture and beauty that surround us; the food that we grow; the Mediterranean diet that we consume – which has been recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity – as well as, of course, the accessibility and the quality of the health services that are made available to us compared to many other Countries.
According to the Medical Tourism Index – and this is the aspect that I would like to focus on with you today – Italy is the 4th destination of “health tourism” in Europe (after United Kingdom, Germany and France) and the 9th in the world.
The opportunities offered are considerable. The global “medical tourism” market is strongly expanding: a survey by Deloitte estimates that the global turnover in this sector amounts to 100 billion dollars, with more than 11 million people seeking treatment abroad every year.
In Italy there are numerous high-quality facilities that attract international patients and many more are equipping themselves to do so.
Online projects like “Health in Italy” – which is represented here today – are important because they help us to develop a high-quality and highly diversified offer.
Our goal is to promote Italy as a destination offering very high-quality healthcare based on the cutting-edge know-how, protocols and technologies in which our healthcare system is leader.
The role of the Foreign Ministry is to do the “networking” to support the “teamwork” needed to give an integrated representation of the quality and effectiveness of our healthcare system.
The Foreign Ministry’s commitment is already tangible and mainly concerns the issue of medical visas by the network of Embassies and Consulates. We already grant a sizable number of these visas although there is still room for improvement: during the last three years, we have released almost six thousand visas for medical treatment.
In addition to the figures, there is also a qualitative aspect: medical visas are given a fast-track status and we always recommend our Embassies and Consulates to process them as quickly as possible. It is no coincidence that no one has ever complained about the delay in obtaining a visa for medical treatment, even in offices that process hundreds of thousands of visa applications. However, if you have any suggestions on how to further improve our services, please let us know. We are open to listening to new ideas.
Ours is not only a visa policy. Healthcare cooperation is a qualifying instrument of our foreign policy. Just think, for example, of the people wounded in both Eastern and Western Libya whom we have treated in Italy, thus contributing to reconciling a Country that we consider to be a priority.
Let us also think of Italy’s Development Cooperation, which envisages a very wide array of bilateral healthcare cooperation initiatives (humanitarian and ordinary) to support the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI).
During the last three years (2014-16), through its Development Cooperation service, Italy has comprehensively allocated more than 270 million euros in healthcare projects around the world.
The healthcare sector is also part of our economic diplomacy. Here again, think of all the efforts made by the Foreign Ministry, in partnership with other public and private players, to support the candidacy of Milan as the seat of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The assessment that Brussels released last 30 September confirms the solidity of our candidacy and the very high quality of options offered by Milan and the Region of Lombardy. The acknowledgment by the European Commission is evidence that when Italy acts united as a system, it obtains higher recognition.
Even now, thanks to this initiative, we are putting together the main players in Italy’s economic system. Standing by us are the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the Regional Authorities, the National Tourism Agency (ENIT), as well as a large number of prestigious public and private healthcare facilities.
If we want to succeed, we must consider the whole medical tourism process, which starts from private hospitals and clinics, and includes wellness centres, local authorities, hotels, Italian cuisine and culture, and also counts on tour operators and the appeal of Made in Italy products.
Today’s is the first important meeting of a network of actors who have started to actively work on enhancing the attractiveness of and making a quantum leap in Italy’s medical tourism system. It is an important new initiative in which the Foreign Ministry will do its share, leveraging its extraordinary network of Embassies and Consulates around the world.