Learn more about the recent palliative care resolution approved by the Executive Board of the WHO through an interview with Stephen R Connor, PhD, Senior Fellow, Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance, Co-Editor of the Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life.

In January the Executive Board of the WHO unanimously approved a palliative care resolution. What does this mean for the palliative care community? 

The unanimous passage of a stand-alone resolution on palliative care by the WHO Executive Board is a moment of history for the global palliative care movement. This is the first time ever that the Executive Board took up a discussion of the importance of palliative care in the continuum of health care. Panama did an excellent job of guiding the resolution and allowing input from civil society.

The next milestone in this exciting journey will be the 2014 World Health Assembly – what can UICC members, as cancer and palliative care advocates, do to support this work?

The resolution will come before the World Health Assembly (WHA) in May and is expected to pass without contention. Then the real work will begin to sort out how to implement the recommendations both for member states and for WHO as a body. The report back from the WHO Director General is only two years away, which is actually a short amount of time to make progress on all the items included. Between now and the WHA meeting, advocates should contact their country missions to encourage them to co-sponsor the resolution. There will also likely need to be a restricted fund to support implementation of the resolution that countries can contribute to, as the WHO budget is limited. 

If Ministers of Health formally adopt the proposed resolution at the World Health Assembly, what impact could it have for cancer patients and others living with advanced NCDs worldwide? 

We hope the impact of implementation of the resolution will result in improved access to strong pain relievers and other essential palliative medications, inclusion of palliative care in key healthcare policies, increased education in palliative care for health care providers, increased funding for the implementation of palliative care both at the primary care level and in improved specialized palliative care for cancer patients and others with life threatening illnesses. 

UICC will continue working closely with WPCA, and a wide network of cancer and palliative care advocates to ensure that the 2014 World Health Assembly recognizes this essential health service.

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