From the CEOs desk: Global meetings

June, 2017

Greetings again from Bangkok. We are at the height of summer here and the heat and the humidity are exhausting!!

As I write this, I’m looking forward to returning to a somewhat less humid Europe for the WONCA Europe conference in Prague. The 2013 world conference was a huge success, and we have no doubt at all that this WONCA Europe event will be at least as enjoyable and stimulating. We will report more fully on it in next month’s WONCA news.

World Health Assembly

This month, though, I will start with World Health Assembly. This top-level event is held every May, at UN Headquarters in Geneva, bringing together health ministers and top policymakers from around the globe. WONCA always sends a delegation, this year led by our President, Professor Amanda Howe, and as always, we had arranged a busy schedule of meetings with WHO colleagues and others.

Our WHO Liaison, Dr Viviana Martinez Bianchi, is writing a fuller report, which will appear In WONCA News, but as ever it was an extremely busy but productive time.

Each visit sees WONCA more and more in demand from WHO, who increasingly value the inputs from family medicine and primary health care. As well as detailed discussions with colleagues from Human Resources for Health (Dr Jim Campbell, who spoke at last year’s Council and conference) and Strengthening Health Services (Dr Hernan Montenegro, who has graced our last two Council meetings) we also had detailed discussions with colleagues from: ageing and life course; mental health and substance abuse; classification and coding; disaster preparedness; and NCDs. We met with WHO Regional Directors from Western Pacific Region Office (WPRO) and Eastern Mediterranean Region Office (EMRO) and Vivi even managed a short interaction with Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO (Pan American Health Organization – WHO for the Americas).

We also met with colleagues from World Medical Association (WMA), International Council of Nurses (ICN) and International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA). Amanda Howe spoke at an IFMSA pre-conference meeting, and also spoke at a side event during WHA on “Building Healthcare systems for the Future”.

Finally, during WHA the new Director General of WHO was elected. Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus from Ethiopia is the first African to hold the post of Director General, and Amanda Howe has written to him, on your behalf, to welcome him and to wish him good luck.

Global Forum on Human Resources for Health

Returning to Human Resources for Health, this is one of the departments with which we collaborate most closely within WHO. They are now planning the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health - Building the health workforce of the future – which will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from 13-17 November 2017. The Forum is inter-sectoral and is the largest open conference on human resources for health-related issues, expected to gather over 1,000 delegates from across the globe.

The adoption of the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health: Workforce 2030 and the work of the UN High level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth (HEEG) – both of which WONCA provided inputs to - have made a bold economic case for investing in the health and social workforce and intensified inter-sectoral collaboration.

The Forum programme will feature high-impact decision-makers, leaders, and investors representing all stakeholder groups to discuss and debate innovative approaches towards advancing the implementation of the Global Strategy and the Commission’s recommendations. WONCA will be sending two formal delegates – Professor Job Metsemakers and Dr Anna Stavdal – and two of our young doctors (Ana Nunes Barata and Veronika Rasic) are on the planning committee for the youth forum preconference. Full details of the event can be found here.

Alma Ata at 40

In 2018 it will be 40 years since the Alma Ata declaration, which came out of the International Conference on Primary Health Care held in Alma Ata in September 1978. This expressed the need for urgent action by all governments, all health and development workers and the world community to protect and promote the health of all peoples. The conference called for urgent and effective national and international action to develop and implement primary health care throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, in a spirit of technical cooperation.

Of course, more recently Dr Margaret Chan Director General of WHO has reaffirmed the primary health care approach as the most efficient and cost-effective way to organize a health system. She has cited Starfield’s evidence which overwhelmingly demonstrates that health systems oriented towards primary health care produce better outcomes, at lower costs, and with higher user satisfaction.

Alma Ata (now Almaty) is in Kazakhstan, and WHO Europe (Central Asian countries are in WHO Europe for historical reasons) has just opened an outreach centre there. Dr Anna Stavdal, President of WONCA Europe, attended a series of meetings in Almaty in June, one of which was to look at ways in which the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration might be celebrated. WONCA hopes very much to be closely involved in any events and will keep members informed as further details become available.

Secretariat Visitor

Finally for this month, in June we were delighted to welcome to the Bangkok Secretariat Ms Yvonne Chung, who managed the Singapore Secretariat for WONCA for so many years. Yvonne was delighted to see and hear that WONCA continues to grow and develop in so many ways.

Until next month.

Garth Manning