A journey towards meaningful youth involvement and universal health coverage
[IFMSA’s PreWHA aims to train the next generation of young leaders in health diplomacy and advocacy]
The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the biggest global health event taking place each year at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. Some may describe it as the global health circus descending on Switzerland for two weeks of debate, diplomacy and collective optimism for a healthier world.
Formally, the WHA is the gathering of the 194 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO), that meet to debate and discuss its work and negotiate global agreements on health issues and the running of the organization. Also attending the meeting are other United Nations agencies and intergovernmental organizations, as well as representatives of non-state actors (everything from charities and NGOs to business federations). There are many points on the agenda including everything from discussing finances and human resources of WHO, negotiating new international law, finding global solutions to ensure access to medicines, improving patient safety, combating AMR, creating new treatments for snakebite envenoming and more.
Each year for the past six years, IFMSA has organised a four-day workshop for its delegation to the WHA: IFMSA’s Youth Pre-World Health Assembly (PreWHA). This event is the first of its kind and has gone on to inspire other youth organisations to host smaller versions of these events. The PreWHA sees IFMSA members, and members of our partner organisations, take part in workshops, hear talks and participate in discussions on different areas of global health & diplomacy. This year, the Organizing Committee welcomed the biggest cohort of participants ever to the WHA, an enormous 60 delegates.
Our advocacy efforts at the WHA is covering many important topics. The whole delegation is focusing on two key issues for their main advocacy efforts: meaningful youth participation and universal health coverage (UHC). For the meaningful participation of youth in health decision-making, we are calling for Member States to implement health Youth Delegate programs (policy brief link here), and also offering Member States a number of policy options for engaging young people at the national level (policy brief link here). Our main advocacy focus for UHC is on sexual and reproductive health and rights, primary health care, and digital health (policy brief link here). Our members are busy approaching Member State (country) delegations to discuss these issues directly.
Additionally, delegates were split into smaller Advocacy Working Groups focusing on specific topics. This year we have 6 groups – UHC, human resources for health, non-communicable diseases and environment, governance and access to medicines, refugees and migrants health, communicable diseases and sexual and reproductive health and rights in UHC. These groups are engaging in their own advocacy efforts on these topics, including writing IFMSA’s official statements on agenda items presented in the Committee sessions at the WHA. We will deliver 14 statements in total!
Follow us on Twitter @ifmsa, on Instagram @youifmsa and on Facebook @International Federation of Medical Students Associations, for more updates of our delegations’ work in Geneva.
Charlotte O’Leary, IFMSA’s Liaison Officer to the WHO
Isaac Florence, chair of IFMSA’s Youth PreWHA 2019 Organizing Committee
Michelle Houde, Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator of IFMSA’s Youth PreWHA 2019 Organizing Committee