Five things you should know about the 72nd World Health Assembly

30 April 2019

The 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) will be taking place from 20-28 May 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, and will bring together delegations from across the world to discuss key health issues, including Universal Health Coverage (UHC) access to medicines and vaccines, antimicrobial resistance, human resources for health, amongst others.

At this year’s WHA, UICC has a full agenda including ‘Walk the Talk’ and a side event ‘Leaving no one behind? Tracking ‘Health for All’ from rhetoric to reality’, in collaboration with other NGOs, including the UK working group on NCDs which brings together 20 further UK-based organisations.

You can view the full agenda here.

1. What is the World Health Assembly?

The World Health Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). It brings together delegations from all of the WHO Member States to discuss key health topics; develop, debate and decide the WHO’s future priorities and works to oversee the current work plan. The WHA takes place every year in Geneva, Switzerland.1

2. What is Universal Health Coverage (UHC)?

UHC means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Achieving UHC by 2030 is set out in Sustainable Development Goal 3.8. Countries that make progress towards UHC will not only make progress towards health-related targets but also towards the other goals. Good health allows children to learn and adults to earn, helps people escape from poverty and provides the basis for long-term economic development.2

3. How is this relevant for the cancer community?

UHC is the overarching framework for work on health over the coming years, and this presents several opportunities and challenges for the global cancer community.

To reach its goals, UHC must include key measures to address the growing burden of cancer, which is the second leading cause of global mortality. The global cancer community are well placed to engage in this discussion, using the momentum behind the cancer resolution, which was adopted by Member States and supported by UICC at the World Health Assembly in 2017. Calls for action on cervical cancer elimination and improved childhood cancer survival rates made in 2018  added further fuel to global cancer control efforts.

To support this work the cancer community can draw on the strong body of evidence on cost-effective interventions to address some of the most common cancer types globally, and many of the interventions required for these cancers can be used as a foundation to build in services for other cancers over time. Making the case for the links between core investments for cancer and NCD services within the framework of UHC is a priority for our advocacy work on behalf of the cancer community.

One of the key challenges that our advocacy will need to address is the misconception that cancer is too costly or complex for many countries to include within their UHC packages. As a result, we are encouraging all UICC members to consider how you can use the resources being developed by groups like UHC 2030, UICC and the NCD Alliance to support UHC discussions within your country or region and help make the case to ensure that cancer is not forgotten.

4. What are UICC's aims at the 72nd WHA? 

The UICC Knowledge, Advocacy and Policy team, alongside members who come and join us in Geneva for the WHA, see the week as an opportunity to:

  • Influence and shape discussions through side events, one-to-one meetings and statements
  • Build connections with Governments and Civil Society organisations across the health spectrum
  • Actively follow discussions on key topics, such as access to medicines and technologies, NCDs, cervical cancer and UHC

5. How can you get involved?

Leaving no one behind? Tracking ‘Health for All’ from rhetoric to reality – Thursday 23 May 2019

UICC supports health for all and a strong focus on leaving no-one behind, but this often raises a question about how we can track this to make sure that we are making investments in the right place and time to improve access to health services.

This event will focus on how we can track UHC, using the systems that countries have in place and identifying best practices and lessons learned from across the health sector. The event is organised by UICC, NCD Alliance, UK Working Group on NCDs, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), UNAIDS, Childhood Cancer International (CCI), International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC), International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union), Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), RAD-AID International, World Stroke Organization, and Worldwide Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA).

The event is open to all delegates attending the WHA and will take place within the Palais des Nations, Room IX. If you would like to attend or have any feedback please contact us here.

Walk the Talk – HealthForAll Challenge – Sunday 19 May 2019

On Sunday, 19th May 9:30 – 13:00, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will be staging the second edition of the 'Walk the Talk: Health for All Challenge' event in Geneva. Local and international communities, as well as participants at the 72nd World Health Assembly, are invited to celebrate the importance of health in which the city of Geneva plays a vital role as a hub for global health.

This event is organised by the WHO in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland, the UN and the City and Canton of Geneva to raise awareness of the work and goals of WHO and other global health agencies based in Geneva. Are you in planning on being in Geneva? UICC’s will be as prominent as at last year’s Walk the Talk event and invite you to come and Walk the Talk with us. Can’t make it to Geneva? Why don’t you host your own event and join us through social media using #HealthForAll.

If you would like to take part please contact us here.


1https://www.who.int/about/governance/world-health-assembly

2. https://www.who.int/health_financing/universal_coverage_definition/en/

Last update: 
Tuesday 30 April 2019
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