WHO Europe Regional Committee – Day 3

This morning began with a technical briefing by the High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth. President Hollande of France and Zuma of South Africa began this commission in February 2016 to develop a report on how the global health workforce can link with economic growth. IFMSA voiced youth unemployment as a concern, and other attendees urged for the establishment of increased public health education among healthcare professionals, and better working conditions to avoid migration of the workforce.

Did you know that a global report of 137 countries healthcare workers found that 67% are female? Gender inequality is being addressed by the Commission to ensure women are able to efficiently fulfill their roles for 20 years plus.

Todays session was opened by Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. She spoke eloquently about the past years successes, and urged for more work to be done around pressing issues including; antimicrobial resistance, migrant health, the need for new R&D innovation, and the tobacco industry. She reminded us that during her next 10 months until stepping down, she will work tirelessly, refusing to become a sitting duck. She ended by reminding us that childhood obesity is the fault of society, not the children themselves.

Following Dr Chans introduction, we participated in a session on WHOs work in emergency & outbreaks. WHO is training 200 teams around the world to support emergency preparedness. Dr Chan seriously warned member states that she does not want another Ebola crisis. In terms of the Zika virus, she calls for better access to contraception. All 6 regional offices are responding, and she is overseeing the policies, as assured. The difference between Zika and Ebola, according to her, is that Ebola is heavy, labour-intensive, while Zika is strategic prevention. Every outbreak is different. Every strategy for controlling the outbreak is different. Nobody likes to pay for prevention. Nobody likes to pay for preparedness. but we need to change, she said.

A strategy on womens health was also discussed and adopted, where the Life-course approach to tackle NCDs was recommended. Katja Iversen (president of Women Deliver) delivered one of the most memorable quotes of the discussion when she said: Women are more than just reproducers, they are producers..

The IFMSA delegation also attended two lunchtime briefings: health laboratory strengthening, and country work within the WHO. Both of these raised the point that international cooperation is needed to tackle disease outbreaks effectively. During the country work discussion, UNDP Resident Representative in the Ukraine, Neal Walker, delivered a powerful message about the importance of working both with governments and civil society to strengthen healthcare systems – a point we avidly agreed with.

As for the adoption of the sexual & reproductive health action plan, it was approved by consensus, but lacked de facto support of Hungary, Turkey and Poland, who voiced their dissenting positions after the strategy was adopted. IFMSA is among many who believe that this dissent will impair the full implementation of the strategy and also sets a worrying precedent in the European Region of the WHO.

All in all though we look forward to another exciting day tomorrow! Please share our refugee & migrant health and safety campaign by using the hashtag #SafetyFirst

Follow our work on twitter by using the meeting hashtag – #RC66.

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