What to Remember from the WHA 74

This year as every year, the 74th World Health Assembly has been a key event in the healthcare world. More than 30 resolutions and decisions were adopted in various areas of public health: decisions on diabetes, disabilities, ending violence against children, eye care, HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, local production of medicines, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and so on.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the message of the WHA has been clear: working together is the only viable solution to end this pandemic and prevent the next. Countries agreed on reinforcing the role of WHO to make it the leading body of political health measures and guidelines. They also agreed on a historical decision to create a member state-led working group that would look at the benefits of a treaty, a convention, or an international agreement on pandemic preparedness & response. This working group will gather during a special WHA session that will take place in November.

Several lessons have been learnt from the impact of the pandemic on essential services for non-communicable diseases and mental health. During the WHA, the WHO reaffirmed its goal to maintain access to high-quality, essential health services in the pandemic context (a goal that was first outlined in the guidance document on maintaining essential health services).

Of course, WHO highlighted that efforts made before the WHA need to continue. High-Income Countries need to invest even more in the ACT-accelerator (1) and immediately donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to the COVAX facility (2). The ultimate goal would be to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of all countries by the end of September, and at least 30% by the end of the year.

Even though the main focus of the WHA was on how to tackle the current pandemic, ambitious resolutions and decisions were taken in various areas. New global eye targets for 2030 were adopted (here), education among health workers was discussed, as well as new resolutions on improving oral health care were decided (here). Finally, the new program Budget 2022-2023 was approved with a 16% increase over the 2020-2021 one.

In February 2020, the IHF attended the WHO Global Consultation on Patient Safety, which was held with close to a hundred experts around the globe to kick off the development of the Global Patient Safety Action Plan. We are now proud to announce that the first-ever “Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030” was adopted by delegates of the 74th World Health Assembly. The adoption of the WHA decision can be viewed here. This is truly a historical step for improved safety of patients and health workers worldwide.

(1) The ACT-Accelerator is a worldwide collaboration established by the WHO which aims to give equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. You can find more information here.

(2) The COVAX Facility is one of the three pillars of the ACT-Accelerator and provides governments with the opportunity to benefit from a large portfolio of COVID-19 candidate vaccines. You can find more information here.


27 May 2021

RESOLUTIONS

  • Diabetes: A new resolution calls on Member States to make diabetes prevention, diagnosis, and control, as well as risk factor prevention and management, a higher priority. It suggests taking the following steps: the development of pathways for achieving goals for the prevention and control of diabetes, including access to insulin. Delegates encouraged the WHO to produce guidelines and give support for improving diabetes surveillance and monitoring in national noncommunicable disease programs, as well as to consider other potential targets.
  • Global disability action plan 2014-2021: Resolutions on making the health sector more inclusive to disabled people. These include access to competent health care, protection during health emergencies and access to public health actions across several sectors. It also intends to improve the collection and disaggregation of reliable data on disability to inform health policies and programs. The resolution outlines a number of steps that the WHO secretariat must follow.
  • Recommitting to accelerate progress towards malaria elimination: Resolution to reinvigorate efforts to end malaria. It urges Member States to accelerate efforts against malaria by developing plans and strategies that comply with WHO’s updated Global technical strategy for malaria 2016-2030 and its malaria Guidelines. It also encourages countries to increase health care funding and support.
  • Improving oral health care: Resolution that encourages Member States to address significant oral disease risk factors (free sugar, tobacco, etc.). It also suggests moving away from the traditional therapeutic approach and move toward a preventive one. The WHO is asked to produce a draft global strategy on combating oral diseases for consideration in 2022 and turn that strategy into an action plan by 2023.

 

DECISIONS

  • Eye care: Decision to adopt the 2030 global objectives for effective coverage of refractive errors and cataract operations (a 40 percent increase in coverage of refractive errors and a 30 percent in coverage of cataract surgery). To meet these objectives, all parties, including governments, civil society, international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, and the WHO secretariat, must collaborate and work together.
  • Global Health Sector on HIV, Hepatitis and STI: Delegates at the WHA74 called for the creation of new policies to bridge the gap between now and 2030. Many of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals have not been met, but progress on reducing the incidence of hepatitis B infection has been made. New initiatives will strengthen these achievements while also addressing considerable gaps in reaching the most vulnerable populations. The WHO will undertake a series of virtual briefings and stakeholder consultations to help guide the development of these
  • World Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Day: Delegates voted to dedicate the 30th of January as World NTD Day. Implementation of a new NTD road map for the period of 2021-2030, with the goal of reducing the disease’s terrible health, societal, and economic consequences. Prioritizing the execution of initiatives across sectors in a cohesive and integrated way will be a critical action.
  • New implementation roadmap for achieving SDG target on noncommunicable diseases: Delegates have requested the World Health Organization to produce a 2023-2030 implementation roadmap to support the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The roadmap will serve as a foundation for countries to decide on priority activities and pathways to accelerate progress towards achievement of SDG target 3.4 (target 3.4: by 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being) within the next ten years. The WHO will consult widely internally and externally, including with the people living with NCDs. Following a review by the Executive Board at its January 2022 session and further consultations with Member States, the roadmap will be presented at the WHA in May 2022.
  • Programme Budget 2022-2023: Delegates adopted the Organization’s proposed budget of $121.7 million for the years 2022-2023. The base budget presents a 16 percent increase over the one of 2020-2021. Delegates asked for the WHO to be funded with more flexibility, predictability, and sustainability, and emphasized that increased resources must be complemented by rigorous monitoring of progress and quantifiable results. The budget will be financed by assessed (US$ 956.9 million) and voluntary contributions (US$ 5 164.8million).

28 MAY 2021

RESOLUTIONS

  • Protect, safeguard and invest in the health and care workforce: Calls for action to ensure that the health care workforce is skilled, trained, equipped, supported, and enabled as a result of large investments. The resolution emphasized the importance of (1) ensuring that all health and care professionals have access to COVID-19 vaccines doses, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), decent working conditions, and equitable labor protection free of discrimination. (2) Multisectoral collaboration and long-term investments in health workforce education, skills, and jobs should be encouraged. (3) Drive the implementation, measurement and reporting on the WHO Global Strategy on HR for health and the WHO Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel. (4) Prepare a global agreement for health and care workers. Policy suggestions on education, jobs, leadership, and service delivery are included in the Global Strategic Directions for Nursing and Midwifery 2021-2025 and its accompanying documents.
  • Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Wellbeing for All: Delegates pointed out the GAP’s critical role in supporting primary health care and driving progress toward the Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health goals. They also stressed the Organization’s focus on country-level impact and the importance of its role in promoting equitable and resilient recovery.

 

DECISIONS

  • Patient Safety:  Delegates adopted the first-ever “Global Patient Safety Action Plan 2021-2030” that aims to minimize preventable harm in health care. The decision offers governments strategic and practical guidance on how to develop policies and implement initiatives aimed at improving patient safety at all levels and situations. Governments, civil society, international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, the WHO, and health care facilities are all encouraged to participate in this action plan.
  • Global strategy on health, environment and climate change: Manifesto for a green and healthy recovery from the COVID-19, a plan of action on biodiversity and health (advocacy for water, sanitation and hygiene in health-care facilities, etc.). Delegates agreed to report on the strategy’s progress in two, four, and eight years.
  • International Chemical Management: Delegates agreed to report on progress toward implementing the WHO Chemicals Road Map again in two years. They also asked the WHO Secretariat to reevaluate the road map in order to submit recommendations regarding the Strategic Approach and safe chemical and waste management beyond 2020.
  • Extension of the Global Coordination Mechanism for Noncommunicable Diseases: The Global Control Mechanism for Noncommunicable Diseases (GCM-NCD) will be extended until 2030. It has been suggested that a variety of actions needs to be taken to improve its effectiveness (development of a work plan). A variety of stakeholders working at country level will build practical mechanisms for sharing expertise and communicating information about innovative activities. A worldwide stock-take of activities from diverse stakeholders at the country level, as well as assistance to Member States on engaging with non-State actors, including the prevention and management of potential risks, will be useful.
  • Prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse: The WHO is dedicated to addressing PSEA and sexual harassment in a comprehensive, holistic, and survivor-centered approach, and is taking measures in policy, capacity development, and operations to do so. Delegates were informed by the Director-General that they would get regular monthly updates on the Independent Commission’s investigations on allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse during the DRC’s response to the 10th Ebola outbreak. The Secretariat will also offer Member States quarterly briefings and have specific agenda items for future WHO governance meetings on these themes. In addition, WHO will: (1) establish a WHO task team to hasten the implementation of WHO’s policies and procedures, taking a holistic approach to sexual exploitation and abuse prevention and management. (2) Establish an informal consultative group of external experts to provide advice on “best-in-class” solutions, recognizing that Member States and other entities have valuable experience and skills that WHO can benefit from.

 


29 MAY 2021

RESOLUTIONS

  • Strengthening local production of medicines and other health technologies to improve access: In recent years, Member States have requested more support from the WHO. The resolution calls for more holistic, cross-government strategies, national policies and action plans, as well as a business-friendly environment, human capital development, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and participation in regional and worldwide networks. The WHO has already committed to hosting the first-ever World Local Production Forum in June of this year, which will bring together governments, partners, and other stakeholders to examine methods for promoting local production to improve health access during the current pandemic.
  • Ending violence against children: The resolution intends to improve the healthcare sector’s ability to prevent and respond to child abuse. It outlines a series of steps that countries and the WHO Secretariat should adopt in partnership with other stakeholders to safeguard children’s health and well-being. The new resolution encourages governments to accelerate the adoption of two technical packages developed by the WHO: the first one is ‘INSPIRE’ and is a set of seven initiatives for eliminating violence against children. The second is ‘RESPECT’ and is a framework for preventing violence against women, with the goal of assisting nations in achieving SDG 16.2 and 5.2.
  • Tackling social determinants of health: The purpose of this resolution is to eliminate health inequities, which have recently been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, by taking firmer actions to address social factors. Governments, civil society, international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, the commercial sector, and the WHO Secretariat are all listed as taking actions in the resolution, including in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and future recovery efforts.

31 MAY 2021

RESOLUTION

  • Strengthening WHO preparedness for response to health emergencies: Member States agreed to meet again in November to discuss the development of a worldwide agreement by the World Health Organization. They also agreed on a Resolution reaffirming WHO’s role as the directing and coordinating authority in health during emergencies and beyond, as well as assisting States in developing resilient health systems and achieving universal health coverage. The resolution provides guidance to the WHO on how to improve existing and future efforts. It urges Member States to provide the WHO with long-term funding while continuing to respond to the current pandemic and improving preparedness capacities.

 

DECISION

  • Mental health during public health emergencies: A Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030 was endorsed by delegates. They also approved the plan’s amended implementation options and indicators.

 

For more information, visit https://apps.who.int/gb/e/e_WHA74.html 


About the Author

Marion Fauveau joined the IHF team as an intern in April 2021. She just graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Foreign Languages at the University of Nanterre (France). As part of her internship at the IHF, she produced several reports regarding COVID-19 vaccine equity, the World Health Assembly and the World Health Organization’s webinars.

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