Days 5 to 7 of the World Health Assembly: highlights for the European Region

  • Discussions continued in the drafting group on the draft decision on Ebola and follow-up to the Special session of the Executive Board on the Ebola emergency. Particular focus was given to core capacity assessment for implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) and to the contingency fund. 
  • On Friday 22 May, Committee B discussions included the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, reviewing the Code since it was adopted in 2010. The United Kingdom and Ireland cosponsored a report on the Code, which underlines that it remains highly relevant, should be subject to periodic review and must be more strongly supported, and that more work needs to be done to ensure that it is implemented effectively. Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania and Norway also expressed their support for the resolution on this issue.
  • On the issue of counterfeit medicines, the Secretariat noted that it was becoming increasingly difficult to combat this threat. Spain underlined its commitment to addressing the issue, and Turkey expressed interest in participating in the working group.
  • A technical briefing on the subject of cancer prevention and control was held on 22 May. During the briefing, it was noted that many types of cancer could be prevented and that survival rates were improving. Recognition was also given to the work of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this month. The Agency's director underlined the need for improvement in the quality and coverage of cancer registration, as well as for cancer survival and mortality data.
  • On 22 May, Committee B also followed up on the report of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination.  Speaking on behalf of all Member States in the WHO European Region, France underlined the need for urgent research on diseases where research and development (R&D) is weak. The European Region is committed to the issue, and agrees to the voluntary contribution pool for Type I, II and III diseases, as well as supporting the global health R&D observatory and the global coordination group. 
  • At a technical briefing on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and progress to 2018, Turkmenistan described the work that it had undertaken to reduce mortality from NCDs, particularly with regard to tobacco control and the development of a national health action plan in line with Health 2020. Norway underlined the importance of regulation for effective NCD prevention programmes.  A representative of the NCD Alliance expressed the need for a clear investment framework for NCDs. 
  • Discussing the Committee A agenda item on women and health, many European Member States took the floor. The Netherlands called for action and goals to address violence against women to be included within the sustainable development goals. Turkey noted the importance of addressing the social determinants of health in order to improve women's health, and explained its new DNA screening for cervical cancer.
  • Latvia spoke on behalf of the member States of the European Union (EU) and many other countries of the European Region during the agenda item on WHO response in severe, large-scale emergencies. Latvia underlined that emergency capacity must be routinely addressed when reviewing health systems and called for strong IHR and for WHO to remain the health cluster lead in emergencies. Turkey explained the services that it provides to Syrian refugees and called for emergencies to be an annual agenda item of the World Health Assembly. On 23 May, decisions were reached on giving the WHO Secretariat the go-ahead to carry out structural reforms so that it can prepare for and respond rapidly, flexibly and effectively to emergencies and disease outbreaks.
  • In the discussion on the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property, the United Kingdom expressed its wish for a quality evaluation, and said that the current proposal was acceptable.
  • Committee A discussed health in the post-2015 development agenda. On behalf of the EU member States, Latvia commended the focus on universal health coverage and social protection for all, and underlined the importance of resilient health systems and multisectoral action, since health is integral to other goals. 
  • During discussions on adolescent health, the United Kingdom noted that less focus had been placed on this key life stage in the past. The Russian Federation emphasized the need for collaboration among health, social, youth and religious organizations to promote adolescent health, and called for a greater focus on obesity, tobacco control, alcohol misuse, reproductive health and regular health checks.
  • Dr Michel Tailhades of Switzerland was appointed representative of the WHO Staff Pension Committee until May 2018.
  • Many European Member States took part in discussions on the IHR. Latvia, speaking on behalf of the EU, stated that an integral component of health systems strengthening must be recognition of the specific needs of each country. Noting that the Ebola virus disease outbreak was a tragic reminder of the importance of meeting core capacity, Latvia suggested that WHO work with partners, invest in capacity and improve assessment in order to deal with issues such as the Ebola outbreak. Delegates endorsed the International Health Regulations Review Committee recommendation to extend the deadline to 2016 for all countries that need more time to implement the Regulations. 
  • Delegations also participated in discussions on the importance of human resources, especially in relation to the recent Ebola outbreak. Requests were made for an inventory of staff skills and experience that would be centrally located and made available to all. The mobility policy was welcomed and delegates commented that its implementation would lead to improved performance. However, gender and geographical representation must be considered.
  • A revised resolution on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), endorsing a global action plan, was adopted on 25 May.  Many delegates thanked Sweden and the United Kingdom for their efforts and leadership in the numerous discussions leading to the new draft text.
  • Also on 25 May, delegates approved a resolution endorsing the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and a Framework for Action, which recommend a series of policies and programmes across the health, food and agriculture sectors to address malnutrition. 
  • Member States agreed a set of indicators to monitor progress on the global nutrition targets set in 2012, when the World Health Assembly endorsed the comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition. The plan lists 6 global targets to be achieved by 2025 on stunting (low height-for-age), wasting (low weight-for-height), overweight, low birth weight, anaemia and breastfeeding. The decision calls on Member States to begin reporting on most indicators from 2016, and others from 2018. They recommended a review of the global nutrition monitoring framework in 2020.