69th World Health Assembly: Live Update

23 May 2016

Rolling summary of events surrounding the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA). For immediate updates please follow @UICC @NCDAlliance #WHA69 on Twitter.

Saturday 28 May 2016 - Geneva Switzerland

Member State dIscussions on the synergies between the World Health Assembly and the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) were finalised this morning. UICC delivered a joint statement on behalf of the Framework Convention Alliance and Alzheimer's Disease International supporting the principle that the WHO governing bodies and WHO FCTC should be periodically updated on each other's activities and relevant decisions.  Member States adopted a resolution to this effect, and this issue will be brought up again for review at the 70th World Health Assembly in 2017. 

UICC also delivered a statement (click here to read in full) during Member State discussions on progress in implementing the 2014 Resolution on palliative care. 

UICC drew particular attention to the UNODC/WHO/UICC joint global programme for improving access to controlled medicines for pain and palliative care.  With support from the Australian government, a first investment in Ghana has united stakeholders to develop an action plan and initiate a series of pilot activities. Work has also begun in Timor-Leste, and seed funding from Belgium will support the same in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UICC noted that a sense of urgency and additional resources are required to support Ghana in implementation of vital pain relief and palliative care services and to replicate this successful model elsewhere. 

Whilst congratulating Member States and the WHO Secretariat on efforts to create new guidance, tools, and training on palliative care, UICC empahsised the need for member states and WHO to prioritise the development of palliative care and that resources are earmarked to accelerate this process. UICC recommended specifically that:

  • Donor countries make funds available to fully implement the resolution.
  • Countries should ensure palliative care is covered under national Universal Health Coverage plans.
  • All countries should adopt national strategies for palliative care implementation including health professional training and access to essential palliative care medicines.
  • The next progress report on implementation of the palliative care resolution should be presented to the 2018 World Health Assembly.

Friday 27 May 2016 - Geneva, Switzerland

UICC followed today's discussions related to access to essential medicines, and delivered a statement (click here to read in full) focused on shortages of medicines, and the quality and safety of children’s medicines. 

Noting that shortages of medicines for adults and children are a significant public health challenge with grave consequences for health, UICC welcomed Member States’ report and draft resolutions on this issue. UICC drew addition to the 2015 update of the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines which now numbers 46 cancer medicines in total and covers therapy for approximately 70% of childhood cancers.

While only a first step in ensuring the availability, affordability, quality assurance and rational use of children’s medicines, the Model List is an important tool which needs to be maintained regularly to remain relevant and provide a robust guide to the selection of priority medicines, particularly in low income settings.

UICC highlighted that the quality and safe use of medicines must be given careful attention, particularly appropriate dosage forms for children and adolescents, and encouraged Member States and the WHO Secretariat to continue to drive forward efforts in this area.

Thursday 26 May 2016 – Geneva, Switzerland

Agenda item 12, focusing on NCDs, has been pushed to tomorrow, with today’s discussions continuing on preparedness, surveillance and response and promoting health through the life course. 

A side event on “Parliamentarians as key actors in ensuring access to health for all” highlighted the crucial role this group can play including: driving national laws and regulations to support national health goals, and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and engaging with other international health commitments. A representative of thePartnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health noted that parliaments offer a unique space to advocate and discuss opportunities for intersectoral action. This is particularly important given that a recent PMNCH study found that 50% of progress in this field is driven by investments from outside of the health sector. 

Closing the day, UICC held a side event titled ‘Are we making the right investments for cancer control? A global dialogue’.

An official side event of the WHA, it was co-hosted by the Ministries of Health of: Malaysia, Honduras, India, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Peru and Zambia. 

Co-hosting NGOs were the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP) and the International Society of Radiology (ISR).

Moderated by Dr Richard Sullivan, Professor,
Cancer and Global Health, King’s College London and Dr Christopher Wild, Director, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Dr Etienne Krug, Director, Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, WHO - panellists were asked to highlight elements of their cancer control work - with a focus on the cancer planning process and policy work; Implementation efforts particularly around scale up of services for equitable access nationally and importantly financing for sustainability.

In setting the tone for the first part of the discussion, Dr Wild provided an overview of the IARC outputs supporting the 2025 agenda for cancer control and then called for strong leadership and creative partnerships to shape implementation that needs to be adapted to national needs.

Discussion then shifted to implementation and scale up of services, and the need for population-based approaches including the establishment of services across diagnosis and multiple disciplines for treatment and care.

Overall, panellists were bold and honest in outlining what their needs are and how the international community can help, including calling for an update of the existing WHA cancer resolution, last adopted in 2005. In closing the session, Richard Sullivan remarked that, “this would be an incredible first step in leveraging additional resources to meet cancer specific targets and needs, as articulated by today’s panellists.”

For the a full summary on the event, please click here

Wednesday 25 May 2016 – Geneva, Switzerland

Member States discussed issues related to preparedness, surveillance and response as well as WHO programme budget and financial matters.

A side event on “addressing the global challenge of medication safety to improve patient safety and quality of care” explored the burden of unsafe medication practices and identified opportunities for patients, professionals, and leaders in healthcare to address key issues such as medicine shortages, medication errors.

Speakers from Malaysia, Poland, Oman, Sri Lanka and Canada highlighted key challenges in their countries including poor knowledge of patients on medicine use and safety even in areas of high literacy, lack of facilities for electronic prescriptions in hospitals, concerns about antibiotic resistance and low numbers of pharmacy graduates in low- and middle- income countries. Some of the proposed solutions included addressing human resource constraints and poor working conditions that can result in medication errors; teaching medication safety in medical curricula, and addressing upstream factors in the production and transportation of medicines.

Tuesday 24 May 2016 – Geneva, Switzerland

Today’s discussions at the World Health Assembly focused around health in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, and the promotion of health throughout the life course. 

WHO organised a technical briefing examining the implications of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for health. Panellists drew attention to the critical need for universal health coverage (UHC), health equity and intersectoral action in order to meet the health goal and associated targets by 2030. Dr Marie-Paul Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation noted that: “UHC and investment in health has a protective effect on health outcomes such as cancer mortality.” 

Side events included: ‘Achieving affordable access to health technologies’, ‘Implementation of successful, cost effective, evidence-based noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) interventions’ and ‘Addressing health workforce deficits, stimulating employment and inclusive economic growth.

Monday 23 May 2016 – Geneva, Switzerland: The 69th World Health Assembly (#WHA69) opened today with a special address from Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

At the first WHA since the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Dr Chan used the opportunity to highlight the new era global health is entering, one that is “shaped by 3 slow-motion disasters: a changing climate, the failure of more and more mainstay antimicrobials, and the rise of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as the leading killers worldwide.

These are not natural disasters. They are man-made disasters created by policies that place economic interests above concerns about the well-being of human lives and the planet that sustains them. Unchecked, these slow-motion disasters will eventually reach a tipping point where the harm done is irreversible.”

UICC welcomed in particular, Dr Chan’s acknowledgement today of the global fight against tobacco: “More countries are exercising their legal right to mandate plain packaging for tobacco products… WHO, together with its multiple partners, is poised to save many more millions of lives.” This is particularly pertinent, in light of last night’s announcement by a major private sector company to divest 1.8 billion Euros from the tobacco industry.

The delegation of France, Uruguay, Senegal, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and FCTC held a side event on ‘Packaging and tobacco,’ reviewing global progress on this issue.

Chef and campaigner, Jamie Oliver, was a special guest of the co-hosted NCD Alliance, World Cancer Research Fund International (and others), side event on ‘Accelerating national progress on tackling child obesity and child under-nutrition in a sustainable way’.

Childhood obesity has reached alarming proportions and predisposes individuals for developing NCDs later in life. Panellists called for governments to endorse and implement the new WHO Guidance to end inappropriate promotion of commercially-produced foods and beverages targeted toward infants and young children, and mandate the development of an implementation plan for the comprehensive, integrated package of policy actions recommended in the report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

Against the backdrop of the WHA, the NCD Alliance held a high-level panel discussion on ‘Making the Case for NCDs: Sustainable Investments, Smarter Financing’. The event provided an opportunity to examine challenges and opportunities for scaling up sustained financing for health and NCDs. Discussions centered around effective and practical solutions for mobilising blended financing streams for health and NCDs in the era of sustainable development as well as the necessary tools to support resource mobilization, such as a global investment framework for NCDs.

WHA website

Last update: 
Friday 7 June 2019