PreWHA 2018: A Retrospective View

Being a delegate at the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA) is turning a dream into something real. Three years ago while searching opportunities for medical students to participate at the WHA, I discovered IFMSA. Definitely a life changing moment. In a world full of inequities and different perspectives, the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly Workshop (PreWHA) was the suitable space for learning, listening and sharing.

If we want better conditions and a higher quality of medical education, if we advocate for Universal Health Coverage, if we pledge for the end of discrimination in health and if we are worried about local and worldwide medical issues – unquestionably the PreWHA helped on gathering more knowledge on these topics.

Future health professionals from 33 different countries came together during a 4-day intense IFMSA-led meeting to prepare for their participation and empower their voices as young delegates in the 71st WHA. This 6th edition of the Pre-WHA meeting did not only gather those new voices in Global Health but also brought high-level speakers and panelists to the table to pass on their experience and knowledge in leadership, advocacy, policy, economy, diplomacy and many other global health related matters.

The preWHA sessions focused on 4 advocacy targets that the IFMSA delegation for the 71st WHA has set as it’s 4 streams: Universal Health Coverage, Antimicrobial Resistance, Non-Communicable Diseases and Ending Discrimination in Healthcare. Nevertheless, several other related topics were dealt with such as the importance of building partnerships,  inclusive public finances as well as sustainable workforce in healthcare – since we believe that it is through an intersectoral approach that we can reach our goals in health along with other SDGs. Indeed, one of the best examples that illustrate this approach is the first morning session we had on the second day focusing on the commercial determinants of health in NCDs.

As the PreWHA came to an end, we had a few more key features to finish the week strong.  Sunday morning arrived with an insightful talk on how achieving Universal Health Coverage requires an important consideration of Primary Health Care. Consideration of three things is imperative in overcoming the challenges: the package, the problem, the person. The package would be Universal Health Care. We continued our talk to have a conversation about providing underserved populations with inclusive and non-discriminatory care.

Before lunch and the final keynote speech, the IFMSA delegation participated in WHO’s “Walk the Talk.” Some delegates cheered on the team, some ran to the venue, and the walking team, well, “walked the talk.” In a sea of people dedicated to improving healthcare around the world, the IFMSA delegates made their way through Netherland’s carrot tent to walking behind Thailand to the finish line. Some even stopped to admire and participate in the activities held by other organizations. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mentioned in his keynote to open the WHA, “We need to walk the talk on UHC.” This walk was not just for one cause but that for better health for all.

With the afternoon keynote speaker waiting, the walkers then ran (yes, ran) to catch the tram back to the PreWHA venue. Upon return, the keynote speech by Helga Fogstad, PMNCH, to wrap up the PreWHA started with a focus on the topic of maternal, neonatal, and child health. It focused on empowering women, children, and adolescents and on public health.

As the afternoon went on, it was time to finish the PreWHA activities and head to the WHA briefing kindly hosted by the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Along with learning about logistics of WHA, streams took some time to prepare for the WHA itself. A huge thanks and appreciation goes to the Organizing Committee, for providing us with the skills and knowledge needed to participate effectively in the WHA on behalf of all the medical students around the world.

With the goal focused policy briefs ready, the PreWHA delegates were ready for Monday morning and the start of the 71st World Health Assembly.

This PreWHA was an empowerment of young health professionals. Our empowerment. Being co-responsible not only for what is ahead, but for now.


Balkiss Abdelmoula, IFMSA Delegate to the 71st WHA, Medical Intern, WFME IFMSA Intern

Paula Reges, IFMSA Delegate to the 71st WHA, Medical Student, SCOPE Development Assistant

Navkiran Bains, MPH, IFMSA Delegate to the 71st WHA, Medical Student, IFMSA Grenada

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