Geneva, 31 May 2017 (PAHO/WHO) - The 70th World Health Assembly closed today, with the adoption of a series of resolutions on major public health issues and the election of a new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Closing the session, the outgoing Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan, stressed that this World Assembly had been "historic" in terms of the number of items approved, interventions addressed, and participating delegates. The WHO budget was also approved, with an increase, and elections were carried out transparently and democratically, she noted. Chan also thanked the delegations and personnel.

In her final address to the Assembly as Director-General, Dr. Chan noted that investment in health produces significant and measurable results, and that the WHO is in a good position to provide success stories that the world is hungry to hear.

New Director-General elected

ghebreyesus-etienne-may-2017-400pxOn 23 May, during the 70th World Health Assembly, the Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) chose Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the new Director-General of WHO.

Dr. Tedros was nominated by the government of Ethiopia and will take office for his 5-year term on 1 July 2017. After the election, the Director-General-Elect was received by the 70th World Assembly, where he signed his contract of appointment up to 2022 and swore his oath of office before the plenary.

Representatives of the six WHO regions welcomed the new Director-General. Representing the Americas, Ecuador's Vice Minister of Governance and Health Surveillance, Fernando Cornejo, congratulated Dr. Tedros.

Cornejo underlined the commitment of the Americas to working with him for "a more dynamic, flexible, resourceful, and well-managed organization with the capacity to respond in a timely manner to the challenges we face in public health." He reiterated the Region's call to "strengthen the leadership and coordination role of WHO as a health agency of the United Nations system" and to "have solid mechanisms of communication and coordination" that can facilitate the adoption of multisectoral measures to address the determinants of health in a coordinated manner.

More information on the new Director-General elected 

Adopted resolutions

During the 70th World Assembly, country delegations adopted a series of resolutions on the following subjects:

  • WHO's proposed program budget of US$4.4215 billion for the biennium, which includes a 3% (or US$28 million) increase in assessed contributions for 2018-2019.
  • Delegates reaffirmed the critical role played by the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework (PIP) as a specialized international instrument that facilitates expeditious access to influenza viruses of human pandemic potential, risk analysis and the expeditious, fair, and equitable sharing of vaccines and other benefits.
  • A 5-year action plan under which WHO will collaborate with the International Labor Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in working with governments and key stakeholders to address the global health and social workforce shortfall and contribute to international efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • A global action plan on the public health response to dementia (2017-2025), which aims to improve the lives of people with dementia, their families, and the people who care for them, while decreasing the impact of dementia on communities and countries.
  • A resolution to strengthen the governance and leadership of national immunization programs and thus meet Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) goals.
  • Delegates asked the Director-General to provide advice to Member States on promoting the health of refugees and migrants, and to gather evidence that will contribute to a draft global action to be considered in 2019, during the 72nd World Health Assembly.
  • New terminology to establish a common understanding of what is meant by substandard and falsified medical products.
  • Delegates agreed on the need to step up efforts to help Member States address the global drug problem.
  • The Global Vector Control Response (GVCR) 2017-2030, which aims to prevent epidemics of vector-borne diseases in all countries, reduce the incidence of these diseases by at least 60%, and cut mortality by at least 75% by 2030.
  • An updated set of policy options and interventions to help countries meet global targets to prevent and control noncommunicable diseases.
  • A resolution calling on governments to integrate strategies for ear and hearing care within the framework of their primary health care systems.
  • A plan to implement recommendations made by the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. The recommendations aim to reverse the rising trend of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents.
  • A new road map to enhance the health sector engagement in the sound management of chemicals.
  • The delegates also paid tribute to ongoing efforts to end polio in the last three countries in which it is endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

These are only some of the subjects approved in this Assembly, held from 22 to 31 May. The delegates also reviewed a progress report on the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and a decision requesting that the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) provide information on outcomes of their biennial meeting to future World Health Assembly meetings. 

- More information on the adopted resolutions

Highlights of the countries of the Americas

The countries of the Americas played a key role during the 70th World Health Assembly, sponsoring side events on a wide range of subjects, as well as working on the Sustainable Health Agenda of the Americas, receiving recognition, and making commitments. Some highlights included: 

  • The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade (HRIMB) of Cuba was awarded the 2017 Dr Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health at the 70th World Health Assembly. The US$100,000 award and plaque were received by Cuba's Minister of Health, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, on behalf of the HRIMB, in recognition of its emergency medical assistance to more than 3.5 million people in 21 countries affected by disasters and epidemics since the founding of the Brigade in September 2005.
    - More information on the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade
  • The Emergency Medical Team of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund became the first in the Region of the Americas to be accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) for its Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) Initiative. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, together with PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne, presented the classification to the Minister of Health of Costa Rica, Fernando Llorca, and to the Director of Emergencies of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, Daniel Quesada.
    - More information on the Emergency Medical Team of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund
  • Brazil became the first country to make SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) commitments as part of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025). Ricardo Barros, Minister of Health of Brazil, made the announcement at the UN in Geneva, on the first day of the 70th World Health Assembly. Brazil's commitments, to be achieved by 2019, are as follows: stop the growth in the adult obesity rate (which currently stands at 20.8%); reduce by at least 30% consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among adults; and increase at least 17.8% the proportion of adults who regularly eat fruit and vegetables.
    - More information on Brazil, first country to make SMART commitments as part of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition
  • WHO authorities, together with Uruguay's Minister of Public Health, Jorge Basso, invited representatives from the world over to take part in a global conference to improve consistency in policies for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. This world conference will be held in Montevideo, Uruguay, on 18-20 October this year. Presidents and Ministers of Health from several countries are expected to take part and agree on a roadmap providing guidance for countries on how to influence public policies in non-health sectors and improve normative consistency on the issue of noncommunicable diseases.
    -  More informatin on Uruguay hosting global conference on prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases
  • The proposed Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2018-30 (SHAA 2030) was the focus of a well-attended meeting of Heads of Delegation of the Americas at the 70th World Health Assembly. Once finalized and approved later this year, the SHAA 2030 will constitute the highest-level strategic planning and policy framework for collective actions to achieve higher levels of health and well-being throughout the hemisphere. The Agenda contains 11 goals and more than 50 targets that PAHO Member States are expected to reach by 2030, for attaining universal access to health and universal health coverage, resilient health systems, and quality health services.
    - More information on the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2018-30

For more information on the activities of the 70th World Health Assembly and the participation of the delegations of the Region of the Americas, visit PAHO/World Health Assembly and WHO/World Health Assembly.