Day 4 of the World Health Assembly: Two new strategies call for action on women's and children's health, ageing

On 26 May, delegates at the World Health Assembly agreed to implement two new health strategies, both closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The aim of the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health 2016–2030 is to ensure that, by 2030, every woman, child and adolescent, in any setting, anywhere in the world, can both survive and thrive. The strategy and its operational framework both place strong emphasis on country leadership.

Delegates also approved a resolution on the global strategy and action plan on ageing and health 2016–2020. The proportion of the world's population aged 60 years or over is predicted to double between 2000 and 2050, rising to 22%. The aim of the strategy is for every country to commit to action on healthy ageing. It calls for the development of age-friendly environments and the alignment of health systems to the needs of older populations.

Implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005)

European Member States including the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United Kingdom took an active part during a committee discussion on implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR). Many countries called for strong WHO leadership on IHR implementation and emergency response; the Russian Federation also underscored the need to use national capacity and resources wisely.

Addressing key administrative and human resources issues

On the fourth day of the Health Assembly, delegates of Member States addressed a number of human resources and administrative issues, including financing of WHO and financial reporting; gender imbalance among WHO staff and steps being taken to address it; mobility of WHO staff; greater WHO collaboration within the UN system, especially within country teams; and enhanced transparency, particularly with regard to the upcoming election of a new Director-General.

On the topic of transparency, the Director-General recommended that candidates for the upcoming election be announced as their applications are received, not only after the closing date as in the current procedure. She also requested that the candidates' forum in November and the candidates' closing statements to next year's World Healthy Assembly be webcast, in order to increase the transparency of the process. These suggested changes were adopted. Delegates of European Member States, including France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom, made interventions during the discussions.

Progress made in a resolution on a Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination

A group met on the fourth day of meetings to prepare a draft resolution for consideration by the Health Assembly on the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination. The European Union, the Russian Federation and Switzerland took particularly active roles, and the group reached agreement on several points: 

  • to make concerted efforts, with adequate, sustainable funding, to fully implement the strategic work plan agreed at the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly;
  • to create, operationalize and strengthen national health research and development observatories for tracking and monitoring to provide relevant information for the Global Observatory, WHO's gateway to health-related statistics for its Member States;
  • to expedite full implementation of the CEWG strategic work plan; and
  • to expedite development of a fully functional Global Observatory.

Side events focus on adolescent health, WHO collaboration with parliaments

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) welcomed 40 parliamentarians and others to a side event entitled "Parliaments as key actors in ensuring access to health for all". This was the first time such a meeting has been organized at the Health Assembly. Strengthening the partnership between WHO and IPU is important, as IPU has been heavily involved in developing the 2030 agenda and also the Global Strategy on Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health. The next 5-year work plan of the IPU will be prepared in the context of the SDGs and universal health care.

Parliamentarians from several countries, including Italy, related ways in which parliaments have supported their governments to improve the health of mothers, women, children and adolescents. The panelist from Italy explained that the right to health is embedded in the Italian Constitution. She was proud to report that Italy provides access to health care not only for its own population but also for foreigners living in the country, including undocumented migrants. Universal health care, she said, is a reality in Italy.

Another side event, entitled "Working together to advance the global adolescent health agenda in the SDGs era" took place on 25 May, organized by Canada, Mozambique, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The meeting was opened by Director-General Margaret Chan, who emphasized the importance of adolescent health, particularly that of girls. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women's and Children's Health, focused her remarks on implementation of the Global Strategy on Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health. She reported that a plenary session on adolescents at the next World Health Assembly will include presentation of "Accelerating health of adolescents", a new WHO initiative.

A representative of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted the importance of improving sexual and reproductive health and education. Schooling and comprehensive sexuality education for girls were described as the best investments. Youth ambassadors who participated in the event expressed their readiness to act.

Bilateral meetings with Denmark, United Kingdom

On 25 May, the Regional Director participated in a bilateral meeting with Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom. The Regional Director took the opportunity to congratulate the United Kingdom on its recent success in introducing plain tobacco packaging and for receiving the Director-General's World No Tobacco Day Award. The conversation also included a discussion on the United Kingdom's strong commitment to the SDGs and areas that have been identified for future collaboration, such as health systems strengthening and universal health care.

In a bilateral meeting, Mr Søren Brostrøm, Chief Medical Officer of Denmark, and the Regional Director discussed implementation of the IHR. Mr Brostrøm said that Denmark has made good progress in this area, and the Regional Director suggested that Denmark could serve as a "pilot country" for the Region with regards to IHR implementation. They also discussed the upcoming Regional Committee meeting, which will be hosted in Denmark, and planned future discussions about the SDGs and a possible Country Cooperation Strategy.