Here is our second blog post about the adventures of the IFMSA delegation to the 140th Executive Board meeting of the World Health Organization. The past days, all WHO Member States, as well as numerous Civil Society Organizations continued their discussions regarding the relevant global health issues of our time in preparation of the World Health Assembly which will take place in May 2017. Are you curious which documents prepared by the WHO secretariat were discussed or would you like to check out the discussion on your favorite global health topic through live webcast? Then check the website of the 140th WHO EB meeting here.
IFMSA presented its vision on a number of topics by sharing official statements during the meeting. In many of these statements, we called upon WHO and its member states to leverage the energy and creativity of youth in order to achieve better health outcomes worldwide. Most statements presented these last few days were linked to topics regarding Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), such as childhood obesity and cancer. Other topics included adolescents health and the health of migrants.
You can read all statements delivered on behalf of IFMSA (and other International Organizations and Non-State Actors Statements) here.
The IFMSA delegation followed the discussion on a variety of global health topics with interest. Member States debated how healthcare systems could be more inclusive in order to meet health needs of migrants. Another hot topic of discussion was antimicrobial resistance, which according to many Member States should be approached from a multi-sectoral point of view. Additionally, it was mentioned how access to affordable antimicrobial drugs and other medication should be safeguarded, or as India mentioned ??without tackling the problem of access to medicine, guided by the principles of affordability and equity, we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Also, the eradication of poliomyelitis was debated and Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, thanked all Member States for their contribution to the progress regarding this issue, but also shared her view that the last miles to eradication are always the hardest and most costly miles.
Moreover, the report of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) framework was presented, acknowledging the world today is better prepared for a pandemic, but not yet fully prepared and ?Member States expressed their concern about how climate change could accelerate the problem of vector born diseases.
Besides these Global Health Issues, WHOs reform was also on the agenda. Panama described the goal of this reform process in a very clear way:
WHOs reform means continuing perfection of the processes of this organization that will enable the organization to undergo ongoing transformation.
Progress in terms of transparency and accountability has been made. However, the reliable funding which is needed for WHO to fulfill its constitutional mandate and especially the funding of the emergency program, the work on non-communicable diseases and social determinants of health are still subjects of debate.
The IFMSA delegation also attended a seminar on health, environment and climate change presented by Dr. Maria Neira, the Director of Department of Public Health, Social and Environmental Determinants of Health of WHO. She elaborated on how 23% of global deaths are linked to the environment and how the major causes of these deaths are non-communicable diseases such as stroke and ischemic health disease. Additionally, she talked about how health expenditure is mainly focused on curative treatment instead of disease prevention. One of her most powerful statements was that:
Doctors should be careful to not only focus on the disease of their patients in detail. They need to stay attached to the causes behind the illness of their patients, such as the environment.
Finally, several delegation members have had the opportunity to meet with their national delegations to discuss their engagement in WHO and the involvement of youth within the WHO. ?Amine Lotfi, the Liaison Officer to the WHO, also took the opportunity to meet with many partners in WHO to prepare for the upcoming Youth Pre-World Health Assembly Workshop, looking for the best experts to come and enlighten our participants in order to enable a meaningful participation of IFMSA at the upcoming World Health Assembly.
Luckily, we the delegation members still had a sufficient amount of time to enjoy some of the typical swiss delicacies, such as the traditional cheese fondue.
In retrospect, the meeting has enabled us as a?delegation to develop our knowledge on global health issues and the work of the WHO. Also, the opportunity to meet with many inspiring people made sure we left Geneva motivated to keep being involved in global health advocacy.
Laura (The Netherlands)