From the CEO’s Desk: Reporting on Rio

November, 2016

Greetings again from the WONCA Secretariat. It has been an incredibly busy time since my last column, with a meeting of the WONCA Executive, a WONCA Council and then an incredible few days at the WONCA conference in Rio. Where do I begin??

The outgoing WONCA Executive met for three days in Paraty, a world heritage site around 150 km from Rio, from 26th to 28th October. Most of the meeting was preparing for the World Council, but there were a number of action items on the agenda, including proposals for new WONCA Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and approval of a variety of financial items, among which was agreeing the budget for 2017-18 which would be proposed to Council.

Council itself was hectic and very busy, but all business was conducted in a very collegiate and professional manner, and we’re grateful to all delegates and observers for making it such a success. By the time you read this column, the minutes from the Council meeting will have gone out to all Member Organizations, but key notable points included:

• Welcoming 22 new members to WONCA since the last Council meeting.
• Recording three straight years of budget surplus – the first surpluses for many years.
• Ratifying six new WONCA SIGs in: Non-Communicable Diseases; Men’s Health; Health Equity; Genetics; Emergency Medicine; and Workers’ Health.
• Endorsing 12 WONCA Position Statements as well as the new WONCA paper (developed in collaboration with iHeed) on “Achieving Universal Health Coverage: Technology of innovative primary health care education”.
• Approving a new WONCA Conference Equity Statement.
• Approving new WONCA Standards for Continuing Professional Development
• Ratifying the seven Regional Presidents and the Chairs of WONCA Working Parties (WPs) and SIGs. There will be features on many of these colleagues in coming months in WONCA News.

Elections were also held for WONCA Officer positions, and we are delighted to report that, apart from Professor Amanda Howe assuming the post of WONCA President (and our first woman leader) we also send congratulations to: Dr Donald Li (Hong Kong) who was confirmed as President-elect; to Drs Karen Flegg (Australia) and Viviana Martinez Bianchi (USA) and Professor Job Metsemakers (Netherlands) who were all confirmed as Members-at-Large; and to Dr Ana Nunes Barata (Portugal) who was elected as the young doctor representative on Executive. Congratulations also to Emirates Medical Association whose bid for the WONCA conference in 2020 was successful, with the proposed venue of Abu Dhabi.

Amendments to WONCA Bylaws and Regulations is also a key part of any WONCA Council. Dr Karen Flegg, Chair of Bylaws and Regulations Committee, gave a accomplished presentation on the proposed changes, which was wonderfully concise and yet very clear in what was being proposed. In essence, the Committee had proposed, and Executive endorsed, simplifying the "constitution", that is the Bylaws and Regulations of Council documents, to make them more useful and usable.

WONCA’s “Constitution” is made up of two documents – the WONCA Bylaws and the WONCA Regulations of Council. Together they form a long and complex document and they include some details which are not generally found in a “constitution”. The Bylaws & Regulations tend to be changed at every World Council meeting and the requirements for changing each of these documents are different. The proposal before Council was to create a new concise constitution, which wuld contain items which did not require change often. The current Regulations of Council would become an organizational policy document called “WONCA Organizational Policies”, to guide Executive to act on Council’s behalf between Council meetings.

This proposal – and other amendments to the regulations to update them on key issues – were overwhelming endorsed by Council, and the Bylaws and Regulations Committee will now be working on operationalizing these changes.

Two other key sessions of Council are notable. On the afternoon of Day 1, Amanda Howe led a breakout session on membership engagement: “The major challenges for global family medicine and what WONCA should be doing on behalf of its members”. Council broke into five groups to discuss the issues and then returned to plenary session to report back on their deliberations. The consolidated report from these discussions has already gone to member organizations for information, and is also included in the Council minutes.

The second notable session was on the morning of Day 2, when we were joined by colleagues from WHO. The session began with a video message from Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO – the Pan American Health Organization (WHO for the Americas) – encouraging Council to continue efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. Dr Hernan Montenegro then presented on “Strengthening health systems through Universal Health Coverage”. Dr Montenegro is WONCA’s WHO Liaison Officer and key contact within WHO HQ, where he works within the Service Delivery and Safety Department, which oversees issues relating to primary health care. Dr Hassan Salah from WHO EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean Region Office) spoke briefly about the challenges and opportunities in WHO EMRO, and he was followed by Dr Jim Campbell from WHO HQ, who is responsible for health workforce issues; he presented on “Global Health Workforce Alliance”. Our members greatly value the work that WONCA does with WHO, and this was a great opportunity to hear at first hand about some of the many issues where our collaboration is taking place.

And as all of this were not enough, Council was then followed by an excellent WONCA World Conference, with over 5,000 delegates. The venue was excellent, the presentations stimulating and the social events were fantastic. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and it really was the WONCA family all together. Friendships were renewed and new ones made, and we all look forward now to Seoul, South Korea, in October 2018.

We will continue to report on outcomes from Council and conference in the coming months, but in the meantime the Secretariat staff join me in sending greetings to all our members across the globe. We wish you all a Happy New Year for 2017 and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the various events throughout the coming year.

Dr Garth Manning