Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly: daily notes on proceedings
Notes: Monday, 20 May 2013
World Health Assembly opens with focus on the Post Millennium Development Goals Agenda
The Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly opened this morning with the election of Dr. Shigeru Omi, Special Assistant for International Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, as its new president. Five vice-presidents were also appointed from Angola, Haiti, Oman, Ukraine, and Nepal, representing their respective regions.
Last 1,000 days for MDGs and the path forward
In his message, which was read by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drew attention to the positive effect the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have had on the global health agenda. He noted that the Health Assembly will discuss a number of MDG-related issues, such as implementation of the Global Vaccine Action Plan and recommendations from the UN Commission on life-saving commodities for women and children. He described the pressing challenge presented by the rise in non-communicable diseases, highlighting the role of universal health coverage in ensuring equitable access to health services. He emphasized the continuing need for WHO to handle unforeseen global health events, such as newly emerging viruses.
Dr. Omi observed that reform of WHO, the topic of tomorrow’s plenary discussion, aims to make the Organization more relevant, more effective and more dynamic.
Opening address of the WHO Director-General
In her opening address, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan reiterated the importance of transparent reporting and vigilance in disease outbreaks, including recent cases of novel coronavirus and influenza H7N9, whilst at the same time maintaining the momentum made in addressing long-standing health issues such as tuberculosis, HIV, malaria; the emerging problem of non-communicable diseases; and eradication of polio.
Dr. Chan reiterated WHO’s refusal to work with the tobacco industry. However, she did not exclude the opportunity for cooperation with the food and beverage industry to address non-communicable diseases, while supporting existing safeguards which ensure no conflicts of interest.
Health in the post-2015 global development agenda
Member States then moved into a plenary discussion about health in the post-2015 global development agenda, noting the critical links between health and sustainable development. Delegates spoke of the need to both build on existing progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals and to address evolving health challenges, notably non-communicable diseases. Many focused on the need to better address equity issues, echoing the UN Secretary General and WHO Director-General’s comments about the potential for universal health coverage to reduce inequities. Many also referred to the importance of measuring for both quality and quantity when monitoring progress.
Delegates began discussions on a draft global action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (A66/9). The action plan comprises a set of actions which, when performed collectively by Member States, UN organizations and other international partners, and WHO, will set the world on a new course to achieve nine globally agreed targets for NCDs (A66/8), including a reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 25% in 2025. The action plan also contains a monitoring framework, including 25 indicators to track mortality and morbidity; assess progress in addressing risk factors, and evaluate the implementation of national strategies and plans.
A drafting group, co-chaired by Pakistan and the United States of America, will negotiate the final text of a resolution and discuss outstanding issues of the draft action plan. The Assembly will resume discussions on this issue later in the week.
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