From the CEO's desk: two new Special Interest Groups

July, 2019

This month I’d like to highlight two new Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which the WONCA Executive has recently endorsed.

SIG on Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Care

For decades, the health care of both Adolescents (10-18years) and Young Adults (18 to 24 years) has largely been ignored both at a global and local level under the presumption that they were healthy and in no need of care. Current trends prove that wrong. Today’s world is inhabited by the largest generation of 10 to 24 years old in human history

Family doctors are uniquely positioned to support the development of AYA and their families. However the training around the globe for family doctors on best evidence practice in adolescent health has been rudimentary. Given the current landscape, this must change, so that we may provide youth with the tools to understand and care for their own health. It is important that family doctors master the care of acute and chronic illness in this age group. That they learn to apply the principles of trauma informed care to manage the issues related to old and new ACE (Adverse Childhood events) that can lead to mental health challenges that if left untreated will lead to unproductive adulthood. It’s vital to act now to assist these AYA who are our best assets in the evolution of a better, healthier world.

A number of presentations have been made at recent WONCA events on adolescents and their families, and the response from attendees at these sessions has been really positive. The key aims and objectives of this SIG are to:

o Engage a strong, diversified membership, representing all WONCA regions in health care issues related to AYA.
o Create a platform and a presence at the different WONCA world conferences to develop an awareness around the need to make Adolescent Health a priority
o Disseminate evidence-based practices for the care of adolescent, young adults and their parents
o Provide evidence-based, system wide continuing professional development that will increase the ability of family doctors to be successful at meeting the unique health care needs of teens and youth, individually as part of their families.
o Increase the number of workshops presented at WONCA global and regional conference on this matter.
o Promote collaborative work of this SIG with other existing WONCA WPs and SIGs, such as: Women’s Health; Family Violence; and Migrant Health, to mention a few possibilities.
o Connect WONCA with other Global Organization working on Adolescent Health.

Co-convenors of this new SIG are:
• Maria Veronica Svetaz (Department of Family and Community Medicine, Hennepin Healthcare, Assistant Professor, U of MN, Minneapolis MN) and
• Pierre-Paul Tellier (Associate Professor, Family Medicine, McGill University, Canada)

Further details can be found on their webpage on the WONCA website

SIG on LGBTQ Health

In October 2018, the Declaration of Astana on Primary Health Care (PHC) reaffirmed the “fundamental right of every human being to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without distinction of any kind” by strengthening a strong PHC supporting “enabling and health-conducive environments in which individuals and communities are empowered and engaged in maintaining and enhancing their health and well-being.”

People identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) have the human right to accessible, affordable and high-quality care to meet their health needs. Transgender individuals – those whose internal gender identities do not match the sex they were assigned at birth – are particularly at risk of being denied this basic human right. People who identify as queer, either in terms of their sexuality or gender, do so because their self-identity does not fit within society’s expectations.

As family doctors we are responsible to provide the highest quality of clinical care possible to patients regardless of each patient’s gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, race, age, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. This was reflected in the WONCA Statement, drawn up by WONCA’s Organizational Equity Committee and strongly endorsed by WONCA Council in Korea in October 2018:

WONCA Statement on LGBTQ

All family doctors are responsible to provide the highest quality of clinical care possible to their patients irrespective of each patient’s age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender identity, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor.

People identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) have the human right to have accessible, affordable and high-quality care to meet their health needs.
World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) acknowledges the health needs of people identifying as LGBTQ and urges all clinicians and medical organizations, as well as all governments and global organizations, to provide just, equitable, dignified, high quality health care to LGBTQ people in each community where they reside.

Globally, LGBTQ people are more vulnerable and more likely to face mental health issue especially at a young age with a higher risk of committing suicide, suffer more from emotional distress, and face barriers to seeking help that are unique to their sexual orientation and gender identity when facing intimate partner violence and sexual abuse.

The aims and objectives of the group are to:
• Educate family doctors about the healthcare inequities experienced by patients who identify as LGBTQ.
• Provide evidence-based resources for the healthcare of LGBTQ patients.
• Facilitate and create international research focusing on LGBTQ health in PHC.
• Connect LGBTQ-identified and ally family doctors in a safe and affirming space within the WONCA organization.

Of course in its effort to meet these aims and objectives the SIG also wants to work closely with other WONCA WPs and SIGs including (but not limited to): Working Parties on Education; Ethical Issues; Mental Health; and Research; and SIGs on Adolescent and Young Adult Health; Family Violence; and Health Equity.

Co-convenors of this SIG are Drs Julien Artigny (France) and Rafik Taibjee (UK). More details are available on the SIG webpage.

Dr Garth Manning