72nd World Health Assembly Closes with Adoption of Resolutions on Public Health Topics

28 May 2019
essential medicines

Geneva, 28 May 2019 (PAHO/WHO) - The 72nd World Health Assembly ended today with the adoption of several resolutions on the world’s most relevant public health issues.

Over the past 9 days, Member States adopted a new global strategy on health, environment and climate change, and committed?to invest in safe water, sanitation and hygiene services in health facilities. The countries adopted a landmark agreement to enhance the transparency of pricing for medicines, vaccines and other health products. The new WHO programme budget was approved and a common approach to antimicrobial resistance was agreed upon.

Patient safety was recognized as a global health priority and the 11th Edition of the International Classification of Diseases was adopted. The countries adopted three resolutions on universal health coverage with a focus on primary healthcare, the role of community health workers, and the High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in New York in September 2019.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough what a decisive moment for public health the High-Level Meeting could be. A strong declaration, with strong political support, could transform the lives of billions of people, in realizing what we have always advocated for – health for all,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in his closing remarks at the 72nd World Health Assembly.

We are going to face many challenges in implementing the commitments that we made, Dr. Tedros cautioned. Some of our countries are deeply divided. Some are in severe economic crises. Some are still suffering from years of conflict,” he added. The WHO Director-General urged the countries to translate the adopted resolutions into policies and programs that deliver results.

Tedros said that to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the Member States and WHO should also commit to regular accountability regarding the progress and challenges they face in the implementation of these policies. When they return next year, he asked the delegations to be ready to report on the steps they have taken and the progress they have made on primary health care and universal health coverage.

Read the complete speech here.

Approved resolutions

Migrant and refugee health

Member States agreed on a five-year global action plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants. The plan focuses on achieving universal health coverage and the highest attainable standard of health for refugees and migrants, as well as for host populations.

The plan includes short and long-term steps to mainstream refugee and migrant health care, enhance partnerships, strengthen health monitoring and information systems, and counter misperceptions about migrant and refugee health.

Member States are requesting that the Director-General report back on progress at the 74th World Health Assembly in 2021. Reports at the 74th and 76th World Health Assemblies to be held in 2021 and 2023 will also include information voluntarily provided by Member States and UN agencies, as appropriate.

Globally, the number of international migrants has grown. In the period 2000–2017, the total number of international migrants rose from 173 million to 258 million, an increase of 49%. The number of forcibly displaced people, 68.5 million, is also the highest ever and includes 25.4 million refugees. Ten million stateless people lack a nationality and do not have access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement.

Access to medicines

The World Health Assembly today adopted a resolution on improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines, and other health products in an effort to expand access.

The resolution urges Member States to enhance public sharing of information on actual prices paid by governments and other buyers for health products, and greater transparency on pharmaceutical patents, clinical trial results, and other determinants of pricing along the value chain from laboratory to patient.

It asks the WHO Secretariat to support efforts towards transparency and to monitor the impact of transparency on affordability and availability of health products, including the effect of differential pricing.

The aim is to help Member States make more informed decisions when purchasing health products, negotiate more affordable prices, and ultimately expand access to health products for populations.

Nagoya Protocol

The Health Assembly asked the Director-General to broaden engagement with Member States, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, relevant international organizations and relevant stakeholders, in order to provide information on current pathogen-sharing practices and arrangements, the implementation of access and benefit-sharing measures, as well as potential public health outcomes and other implications.

The request followed a review of the WHO Secretariat’s report on the public health implications of implementing the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization.

Other resolutions

On previous days, delegations of the member countries adopted several resolutions, including the following:

  • Delegations at the World Health Assembly adopted three resolutions on universal health coverage, with a focus on primary health care, the role of community health workers, and the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage that will be held in September. More information here.
  • The countries agreed to adopt the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) that will become effective on 1 January 2022. The ICD is the foundation for the identification of health trends and statistics globally, and the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. It is the diagnostic classification standard for all clinical and research purposes. ICD defines the universe of diseases, disorders, injuries, and other health conditions. More information here.
  • They also agreed to recognize patient safety as a key health priority and to take concerted action to reduce patient harm in healthcare settings. An estimated 134 million adverse events occur annually due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries, contributing to 2.6 million deaths. More information here.
  • The countries also adopted a resolution to improve safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in health facilities around the world. To prevent the spread of infections, reduce maternal and newborn deaths, and achieve universal health coverage, the resolution urges Member States to prioritize WASH interventions for safer health care worldwide. More information here.
  • A resolution was adopted urging Member States to strengthen infection prevention and control measures including water sanitation and hygiene; enhance participation in the Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System; ensure prudent use of quality-assured antimicrobials; and support the multisectoral annual self-assessment survey. More information here.
  • The countries approved a new global strategy on health, environment and climate change, which provides a vision and way forward on how the world needs to respond to environmental health risks and challenges until 2030. They also agreed on a plan of action on climate change and health in small island developing states. More information here.
  • Among others, the delegations adopted a resolution to accelerate and scale up action to prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases, primarily cancer, diabetes and heart and lung diseases, and to meet global targets to reduce the number of people who die too young from these diseases. More information here.

Highlights of the Countries of the Americas

Through their delegations, the countries of the Americas played an active role at the 72nd World Health Assembly in discussions at the plenary sessions, as well as on the resolutions and at side events on different health issues. Some highlights included:

  • Argentina was officially recognized by WHO as malaria-free. The certification is granted when a country proves that it has interrupted indigenous transmission of the disease for at least three consecutive years. More information here.
  • This year, the WHO Sasakawa Health Prize recognized the work accomplished in the district of Iguaín, Peru where the rate of anemia in children under 3 fell from 65% to 12% in three years. More information here.
  • Jamaican doctor and professor Peter Figueroa was recognized at the 72nd World Health Assembly as a health leader, for his substantial contribution to public health in Jamaica, the Caribbean, the Americas and other parts of the world. More information here.
  • Nearly 30 health ministers and authorities from the countries of the Americas spoke in the plenary about how they work to achieve universal health without leaving anybody behind. More information is available here, here, or here.
  • Ministers of health of the Caribbean and the Pacific met to discuss opportunities for cooperation and exchange in four main areas: climate change and resilient health systems, regulatory frameworks, health security, and noncommunicable diseases. More information here.
  • At a side event, the Ministers of Health of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama acknowledged the challenge that migration poses to their health systems, and emphasized their commitment to a humane and collective response to migrants. More information here.
  • Delegations from various countries shared experiences and ideas on how to build confidence in vaccines and step up global immunization efforts to preserve the health of all generations, at a side event that was organized by the United States, Brazil, Canada, Colombia and other countries. More information here.
  • To foster healthy aging, WHO will lead a decade of global action, and to review the Organization’s progress over the past decade and share experiences, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, and Panama organized a side event to discuss the topic. More information here.
  • Noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading cause of death in the world. However, communicating effectively about them is a significant challenge, Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said at this side event. More information here.