Synopsis of the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly

Posted on June 3, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

WHO logo new verticalThe World Health Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). This group determines and supervises the policies of the WHO, and reviews and approves the proposed annual program budget. The Assembly convenes once a year in Geneva to review the work of WHO, and to set new goals and assign new tasks for the organization. This year, this meeting took place from May 18 to May 26, and more than 3,000 delegates from the 194 Member States of WHO were estimated to have attended. Some of these individuals were leaders from member organizations of the Triangle Global Health Consortium, including Intrahealth International President and CEO, Pape Gaye! Committee and plenary meetings were held each day, as well as technical briefings for specific public health topics.

Topics of briefings included health in the post-2015 sustainable development goals, the Ebola outbreak, and climate and health preparations for the third UN High-Level meeting on noncommunicable diseases in 2018, among many other subjects. The planned budget and program of work for 2016 and 2017 was approved, and progress reports on issues such as adolescent health, immunization, noncommunicable disease, and WHO’s response in severe, large-scale emergencies, were reviewed. A new global malaria strategy was also agreed upon for 2016 to 2030, which will aim to reduce global disease burden by 40 percent by 2020, and at least 90 percent by 2030. Delegates hope that malaria will be eliminated in at least 35 new countries by 2030.

The annual public health awards, including the Sasakawa Health Prize, the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize, among a few others, were also presented. Member States came to a consensus that polio eradication can only be achieved through global solidarity, and noted the success and progress made in Africa and the Middle East. The deadline for countries to meet international health regulations has been extended to 2016, in order to provide adequate time for these regions to be prepared to quickly detect, respond to, and prevent global health threats, particularly after observing the difficulties withwha-67-opening response to the Ebola outbreak. Another reflection of the impact of this epidemic was the Assembly giving the WHO permission to implement structural reforms to prepare for and respond quickly, flexibly, and effectively to emergencies and disease outbreaks. The WHO will establish an emergency program, with a 100 million US dollar contingency fund, to finance in-field operations for up to three months. The Assembly applauded the WHO for its work to develop vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs for the Ebola virus disease, but also requested the continuance and enhancement of the organization’s work in assisting countries with better preparation for health emergencies, via the strengthening of national health systems.

Delegates also endorsed a five objective global action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance, including the issue of antibiotic resistance. Participants noted that progress with the Global Vaccine Action Plan has been slow and inconsistent, as a result of limited access to sustainable supplies to affordable vaccines by low and middle-income countries. As a result, the WHO will coordinate efforts to counteract the gaps in progress with the plan.

Resolutions to combating malnutrition were also discussed, including the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and a Framework for Action, as well as a set of six indicators to measure nutrition among mothers, babies, and young children. The Rome Declaration on Nutrition and a Framework for Action suggests policies and programs spanning health, food, and agriculture sectors to address malnutrition.

On the last day of the assembly, three final resolutions were made. Delegates discussed how to address air pollution, the world’s largest single environmental health risk, for the first time. After the debate, the role of the national health authorities to encourage strong cooperation between different sectors, and to integrate health concerns into national, regional, and local air pollution- related policies, was highlighted. The second resolution focused on strengthening care for epilepsy, due to a lack of proper diagnoses and treatment for 90 percent of people with this condition in resource-poor settings. There is a need for government involvement with national policies and legislation, a need for strengthening of the health information and surveillance system, as well as a need to stress the importance of non-specialist healthcare providers to counteract the treatment gap. Access to, and affordability of, medications was also discussed, and the idea of public awareness activities and increased research capacity, to address the stigmas associated with this condition. The third resolution was directed towards working with non-state actors, such as NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations, and academic institutions. A register of these types of organizations will be created by the WHO Secretariat, and will be invited to next year’s assembly.


If you would like to see a full breakdown with details of each day of this event, visit this page on the WHO website!

If you are interested in a live, one-hour broadcast including interviews with experts about key health issues under discussion at the Assembly, visit this page.

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