From the CEO: WHA, Europe conference, Zika and Rio.

June, 2016

Hello again from the WONCA Secretariat. The two key events I want to talk about this month are the World Health Assembly, held in late May, and the WONCA Europe conference in Copenhagen from 15th to 18th June. I also briefly want to mention the many great activities undertaken by our member organizations to celebrate World Family Doctor Day.

World Health Assembly – May 2016

Each year WONCA sends a delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva to make sure that WONCA – and the voice of family medicine generally – is heard loud and clear. This year the delegation consisted of our President (Professor Michael Kidd) our President-elect (Professor Amanda Howe), our WHO Liaison Officer (Dr Luisa Pettigrew) and me. Luisa will report in more detail on the various meetings and activities, but I wanted to give a brief overview, as our Member Organizations constantly remind us that they regard our liaison with WHO as one of the most important roles of WONCA, and so we place great emphasis on our annual attendances at this event.

As ever we had a series of important meetings with WHO colleagues, covering topics as diverse as: Ageing and Life course; Global health workforce issues; Mental Health and Substance Abuse; Radiation Safety; Occupational Health; and Clinical Coding (the collaboration between WHO and WONCA’s International Classification Committee on ICD-11 development). We had a detailed meeting with our key WHO Relationship Officer, Dr Hernan Montenegro, and his team in the Strengthening Health Services Division. This team includes Dr Shannon Barkley who has lead responsibility for PHC development within the division, including person-centred and integrated health care.

We held meetings with Dr Ala Alwan, Regional Director of WHO EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean Region Office) who outlined his very exciting and ambitious plans for ongoing family medicine development in the region, and with Dr Delanyo Dovlo, Director of Health Systems of WHO AFRO (Africa Region Office) who briefed us on the many challenges of family medicine development in Africa, but also on some of the progress which is now being made.

We held meetings with representatives from other health professional organizations, including the International Council of Nurses, to explore closer collaboration, and with a representative from the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) which is already an Organization in Collaborative Relationship with WONCA.

We also attended three side events. The first was on “Insecurity and the social determinants of health”, led by Sir Michael Marmot, President of the World Medical Association. The second was on “Global and Local: Primary Care in Action” which was addressed by our President, Michael Kidd, as well as Professor Jan de Maeseneer and representatives from the World Federation of Public Health Associations. The third event was “Addressing health workforce deficits” led by Dr Jim Campbell, Director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA).

Those who attended the 2013 WONCA World Council in Prague will recall Hernan Montenegro’s excellent presentation to Council, and we’re delighted that Hernan has accepted an invitation to address the next World Council in Rio de Janeiro. He will be joined by Dr Jim Campbell from GHWA, and so Council attendees will have an opportunity to hear directly from both of these key WHO people. We’re glad to report that both will also attend the Rio conference, where they will be running workshops, so all delegates will have an opportunity to interact with them.
As if all of this was not enough, WONCA also submitted seven written statements at WHA 2016, responding to agenda items, and these are detailed in Luisa Pettigrew’s report.

WONCA Europe Conference

This year’s WONCA Europe conference was held in Copenhagen from 15th to 18th June, and was a great success. Organised by the Danish College on behalf of the Nordic Federation of General Practitioners (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark), over 3,000 participants – of whom about 1/3 were trainees or young doctors – enjoyed many very high quality plenaries and sessions. Vasco da Gama Movement also held a very well-attended pre-conference on 14th and 15th June, and it was refreshing to see many first time attendees at this event.

Of particular note were two sessions entitled “Voice of the patient” which set the scene for the excellent keynotes which followed. Also of note were the many “Five minutes; one slide” presentations. The keynotes can be found here.

World Family Doctor Day

And of course we also celebrated World Family Doctor Day (WFDD) on 19th May. This has become a day to highlight the role and contribution of family doctors in health care systems around the world. The event has gained momentum globally each year and it is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the central role of our specialty in the delivery of personal, comprehensive and continuing health care for all of our patients. It’s also a chance to celebrate the progress being made in family medicine and the special contributions of family doctors all around the world.

As ever, you have been sending Karen Flegg details of the events you held to celebrate WFDD and you can find more details on the ever-increasing events on the website:.

Zika Virus

We continue to keep a close eye on WHO’s advice regarding the Zika virus. In its latest bulletin, dated 31st May, WHO continues to advise that, based on available evidence, it has issued no general restrictions on travel to countries, areas and/or territories with Zika virus transmission. However, WHO is advising pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. This advice is based on the increased risk of microcephaly and other congenital malformations in babies born to pregnant women infected with Zika virus.

WHO offers general advice to travellers to help to prevent mosquito bites. This and other information on Zika can be found on the WHO website.

See separate news item.

Forthcoming Events

With the World Conference in less than four months time there is now a moratorium on any further WONCA events, and the Secretariat will now concentrate on getting out the 2015-16 Annual Report and preparing all paper for Council. In the coming weeks I will have brief visits to the Maldives, along with Professor Pratap Prasad (President South Asia Region) to hold discussions with Ministry officials about establishing a society for family doctors which might then apply for WONCA membership. In early October I will also visit Korea, for discussions with the 2018 HOC, as that conference is now only two years away. I will report back in due course.

Best wishes for now.
Garth Manning