IFMSA at the SIXTY-FIFTH World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland

IFMSA at the WHA opening

Ten delegates (Christopher Pleyer (IFMSA-President), Usman Mushtaq (IFMSA- Lo-WHO), Roopa Dhatt (IFMSA-VPE), Alex Lefebvre (IFMSA-Treasurer), Kelly Thompson, Charles Chineme Nqobu (IFMSA- RC Africa), Desiree Lichenstein, Dan Knights, Altynai Satylganova (IFMSA-Lo-PH), and Pablo Vega (IFMSA-LORMA), representing medical students worldwide, are among the group of health leaders, civil society, members states, and non-governmental organization—gathered at the SIXTY-FIFTH World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss how the global community can take on the 21st century health challenges.

The IFMSA delegation on Day 1–began with a series of informal meetings, networking and attending the launch of the World Health Professions Alliance Non-Communicable Diseases Toolkit and the opening of the WHA with Dr. Chan.

The Non-Communicable Diseases Toolkit Luncheon

IFMSA delegates were invited by the World Medical Association (WMA), by Dr. Klobier to attend this launch of the NCD Toolkit, highlighting the standards for professionals and patients to monitor their health:

Included in this kit:

  1. Health Improvement Card that looks at BMI.
  2. Biometric scorecard which focuses on BMI, Fasting Blood Sugar, Cholesterol and Blood Pressure.
  3. Lifestyle scorecard which focuses on healthy diet, physical activity, tobacco use and use of alcohol.

Furthermore the toolkit has a section devoted to health improvement action plan for commitments both from the patient and the health professional.

The World Health Professions Alliance composed of International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), World Dental Federations (FDI), WMA and International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufactures & Associations (IFPMA) created this toolkit to increase the efforts of the health professionals in addressing NCDs.

Opening of the WHA


Dr. Chan opened the World Health Assembly by applauding the health achievements around the globe: India—eradication of Polio with government ownership; Ghana—commitment to guinea worm eradication shrunk its last outpost—South Sudan; Oman—integrated approach to respond to outbreaks and natural disasters; Australia—leads resistance to the tobacco industry’s latest onslaught of aggressive tactics; Indonesia—pushed for pandemic flu preparedness; and the Nordic countries and Canada to promote gender equity and human rights, leading by example.  The example of these countries achievements shows that there are successes in the efforts of governments, civil society, health experts, even if there is slight more to achieve.

Dr. Chan reminds us though we are in a financially constraining environment, a healthy future is still ahead of us and commitment to achieving this is still at the forefront of our efforts in the health community.

The answer that WHO is calling for universal health coverage—as the solution.  “Universal health coverage is the ultimate expression of fairness, between rich & poor, young & old, women & men.” She goes on to say that Universal health coverage is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer.” As this is the next theme of IFMSA’s GA, IFMSA is at the forefront of discussing these issues and health reform in line with the direction of the international community.

Dr. Chan emphasizes the importance of three areas as we tackle health issues:

  1.    Get back to the basics and Be Thrift
  •  Turn to cost effective and efficient delivery of care
  • Encourage universal health coverage
  • Use primary health care
  • Increase access to essential medicines
  • Take on the challenge of Non-communicable diseases, as they can set back poverty alleviation, pushing millions below the poverty line
  1.     Innovation
  • “The true genius of innovation resides in simplicity, making usability and affordable price explicit objectives.” –Dr. Chan
  • This echoes the turning to simple, easily accessible and usable tools for those delivering and receiving care.
  • “Innovation does the most good when it responds to societal needs beyond profit.”—Dr. Chan
  • In aligns with using simplicity to reach greater targets—the WHO has developed a Safe Childbirth Checklist to address the huge burden of maternal & newborn deaths that it will be releasing soon.
  1.     Values
  • We must never forget our value system including social justice, equity and gender equality. –Dr. Chan
  • Never forget the people. –Dr. Chan

She concludes the opening with “WHO-We will not let the people down.”—Dr. Chan.  Again emphasizing the commitment of WHO to lead leaps forward in the achieving health for all.

The delegation concludes the day with high spirits and even greater energy to take on the next day.

–Written by: Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA VPE

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