Geneva, Switzerland, May 21st 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — On its second working day, the World Health Assembly (WHA) began its work agenda by discussing resolutions. The WHA brings together more than 3,000 delegates from around the world this week.
At the plenary session, country delegations and special guests continued to emphasize the importance of health on the development agenda and the need to achieve universal coverage.
Assembly welcomes special guests
Speaking at the invitation of the WHA, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, called for efforts to end poverty in this generation. "To free the world from absolute poverty by 2030, countries must ensure that all of their citizens have access to quality, affordable health services," he said.
Kim linked health to prosperity, equity, and social justice, pointing out that these gaps must be closed in order to ensure development. He reiterated the importance of listening to and serving the needs of the community and rigorously measuring the progress made, and added that all stakeholders in world health must pool their efforts to achieve universal health coverage.
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, shared her vision of a healthy community, nation, and continent. She commented that implementation of the principles of primary health care have been a key factor enabling the African Union to establish its Agenda 2063, aimed at becoming an integrated and prosperous continent.
The Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, Gunilla Carlsson, emphasized that to invest in health is to ensure wellbeing and prosperity, and that health should be at the center of all efforts to reduce poverty. "We need healthy people in healthy environments," Carlsson said, also pointing out the need to invest in the entire life course.
The delegations of the Americas at the WHA
At the morning plenary session, the Assembly continued to listen to the positions of the world's ministers of health. The health authorities of the Americas spoke about the special concerns of each country, their progress, and their perspectives on the post-2015 development agenda and universal health coverage——the main subjects of their presentations.
The Minister of Health of Guatemala, Dr. Alejandro Villavicencio, was the first representative of the Region to take the podium. He said his country's government has taken specific action to address child malnutrition as a priority issue. He emphasized the role of primary health care in this strategy and called on WHO to adopt Guatemala's approach of carrying out interventions in the "first 1,000 days" of life.
The Undersecretary for Public Health of Chile, Dr. José Díaz, said that with two years to go before the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), it is fundamental to establish a process to continue addressing the health issues on the previous agenda, including maternal and child mortality, while adding new priority issues.
The Minister of Health of Jamaica, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, noted that noncommunicable diseases are an enormous challenge and that maternal and child mortality remains a great concern. He said that universal health coverage is essential in order to achieve the next set of development objectives, but added that the determinants of health must also be taken into account to promote development.
The Undersecretary of Health Determinants and Health Relations of Argentina, Dr. Eduardo Bustos Villar, recognized WHO's efforts to promote the inclusion of health in all policies and called on countries to follow that path. He gave examples of the work done in his country to implement a community model for primary health care.
The Minister of Public Health of Uruguay, Dr. Susana Muñiz, described the different areas where her country has made progress toward universal health coverage through a reform of its health system. She also pointed out Uruguay's active role in combating tobacco——one of the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases. The country has shown "that it is possible to obtain results if all suggested measures are applied," she said, referring to the health impact of a declining incidence of smoking.
The Deputy Minister of Health of Colombia, Fernando Ruiz, called for the new post-2015 development agenda to include very specific health indicators throughout the entire life course. He mentioned equitable access to medicines as one of the most critical factors.The First Deputy Minister of Public Health of Cuba, Dr. José Portal Miranda, identified the fair and equitable distribution of health resources as the key to achieving the proposed development goals. He said that Cuba has met the goals and has gone much further, even though measures such as the U.S. embargo have negatively impacted the country's health system.
The Minister of Public Health of Costa Rica, Dr. Daisy Corrales, called for countries to facilitate access to safe, high-quality, and equitable health services. She also maintained that it is necessary to strengthen the development of human resources in the health field, as well as comprehensive intersectoral and interinstitutional collaboration. In order to reach universal coverage, the barriers that limit access to health must be eliminated, she said.
The Nicaraguan presidential adviser on public policies, Paul Oquist, said that the right to life implies the right to health and that universal coverage should include all of the world's people. He commented that improving health is linked to changing the model of production and consumption. He also warned that the new development objectives should not be based simply on adding specific issues, but that a holistic approach should be taken.
There was agreement on the resolution on the draft General Program of Work, a document that sets out the strategic vision for WHO's efforts over the next six years. The document explains how the Organization will help to achieve health outcomes and impact around the world. It also reflects political, economic, and institutional changes in WHO, as well as current epidemiological trends and what impact these trends may have on the lives of people and on health systems in the countries. It was also agreed, among other measures, that the importance of antimicrobial resistance and the risk it presents to achievements in health should be emphasized.
Draft twelfth general programme of work (A66/6)
Draft resolution: Twelfth General Programme of Work, 2014—2019 (A66/6 Add1)
Report of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board to the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly (A66/52)
There was also debate of the financial regulations and rules agreed upon in the draft resolution to enable the member countries to adopt the WHO budget, which is financed by assessed contributions and voluntary contributions. At present, the Member States approve only the assessed contributions to the budget, which currently represent less than a quarter of the amount that WHO receives. This measure is relevant to WHO financial reform, since it improves the members' governance of the Organization's activities and financing. These changes would take effect after the session of the Executive Committee next week.
Amendments to the Financial Regulations and Financial Rules (A66/33)
Report of the Programme, Budget and Administration Committee of the Executive Board to the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly (A66/57)
Technical information session
A technical information session, "Aligning for better results: information session on the IHP+", was headed by the Director General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, and the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim. The International Health Partnership (IHP+) includes governments, development agencies, and nongovernmental organizations that work together for more effective development assistance and cooperation. The panelists included representatives of the European Commission, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sweden, the Global Fund, Myanmar, and Rwanda, among others. All panel members emphasized that it is important for each country to take the lead in collaboration for development, in a framework of accountability and mutual transparency.
PAHO Director meets with CARICOM Ministers of Health
The Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, met at noon today with the Ministers of Health of CARICOM to discuss different issues related to the Organization and to this group of countries. This meeting is traditionally held during the World Health Assembly.
The meeting was led by the Minister of Health of Jamaica, Fenton Ferguson, who officially welcomed Dr. Etienne as the new director of PAHO. He mentioned her previous work at PAHO and WHO, as well as her years working in her home country, Dominica. Dr. Ferguson announced CARICOM's "total support" for her administration. Dr. Etienne thanked him for his words, and the group for its commitment to health and its support of her work.
Various matters involving joint efforts between the countries of the Caribbean and PAHO were addressed at the meeting. Those present also discussed the recent establishment of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which brings together five regional health institutions. Dr. Etienne reaffirmed that PAHO considers this an important new health agency in the Caribbean.
Side event: Discussion of an initiative to eliminate malaria in Central America and Hispaniola by 2025
An initiative to eliminate malaria in Central America and Hispaniola by 2020-2025 was discussed at a side event to the World Health Assembly. The side event was convened by the Ministers of Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, and by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
This initiative seeks to optimize the available resources and preserve what has already been achieved in this subregion of the Americas. The Ministers of Central America discussed the next steps to be taken at a meeting to be held in June, where there will be detailed consideration of the interventions needed to eliminate malaria in these countries.