The 73rd World Health Assembly will be convening on Monday 18th May by videoconference following an abridged agenda. Discussions will focus on the adoption of a resolution that sets out priority actions for a global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
UICC is pleased to see the inclusion of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, in the resolution as evidence has shown that people living with NCDs are at greater risk of complications of COVID-19 and the burden of disease from NCDs is likely to rise due to the interruption of services.
Shortages of protective gear and essential cancer medicines, as well as the re-allocation of health care workers to the coronavirus response and the risks associated with exposure to the disease for cancer patients, mean that cancer treatments have sometimes been delayed or suspended. The pandemic has also had an impact on community outreach, support, prevention, early diagnosis, screening and vaccinations, with potential long-term implications on the prevalence and severity of cancer cases and on mortality rates.
The resolution was proposed by the European Union and sets out a framework for Member States, WHO and other stakeholders to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic. It asks governments to develop comprehensive national action plans that include measures to maintain essential services for non-communicable diseases, including cancer, and tasks WHO with developing technical, communication and other support.
Crucially, the resolution calls on all actors to give particular consideration to the impact of COVID-19 on people living with pre-existing conditions like NCDs, HIV/AIDs, TB, disabilities, maternal and child health conditions), to protect them from infection and ensure the continued availability of essential public health services, and to strengthen health systems.
UICC worked with other NCD and palliative care advocates to secure the inclusion of references to NCDs and palliative care in the resolution. There are also important references to whole-of-society approaches to COVID-19 and communty engagement, which would provide opportunities for UICC members to get involved nationally in the development and implementation of COVID-19 action plans in their countries.
The World Health Assembly will be broadcast live and the recording will be made available to the public without need for registration via the WHA73 web page.