From the CEO's desk: WONCA and WHO

January, 2019

This month I thought it would be timely to write on WONCA and its ever-closer relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO). Our members regularly tell us that our relationship and interaction with WHO is one of the most important roles that WONCA can play.

The big news, of course, is the MOU which has just been signed between WONCA and WHO – featured elsewhere in this newsletter.

WONCA WHO memorandum of understanding
WONCA has had “Organization in Official Relations” status with WHO for many years but the status of an MOU, rarely granted by WHO, gives us considerably more access to, and leverage with, departments at WHO Headquarters and the regions. The MOU consolidates the relationship between the two organizations and reflects the key role played by family doctors and GPs in achieving the global goal of Universal Health Coverage, through comprehensive, patient-centred, professional primary care. It clearly acknowledges the importance of the primary care team in the delivery of appropriate, affordable care to the world’s population.

But there are, of course, many examples where WONCA is already working closely with WHO, and even as I write this, a delegation comprising our President, Dr Donald Li; President Elect, Dr Anna Stavdal; and WHO Liaison, Dr Viviana Martinez Bianchi; are attending the WHO Executive Board assembly and holding a series of meetings with colleagues and partners. They will report more fully in a subsequent WONCA News.

Many of the partnerships are undertaken by our Working Parties (WPs) and Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Our Working Party (WP) on Mental Health has a long standing and productive relationship with the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. WONCA’s International Classification Committee (WICC) attends regular meetings of WHO-FIC – the WHO Family of International Classification. The WP on the Environment was recently represented at a Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, whilst our Special Interest Group (SIG) on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) attended a meeting of the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases on our behalf. Meantime our SIG on Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine and SIG on Emergency Medicine have been contributing to WHO documents and meetings on Disaster Risk Reduction.

In addition to all of these, those of you who attended the World Council meeting, in Korea, will have been privileged to hear Dr Shannon Barkley, our Designated Technical Officer (ie our key liaison point in WHO) talk on our work with WHO. This followed on from the presentations at World Council, in Rio, where both Dr Hernan Montenegro and Dr Jim Campbell spoke so eloquently and informatively to Council.

These are just a few of the many interactions between our two organizations, and further details can be found on the WONCA website.

I also commend the WHO website to you, as it contains many interesting features. Current topics being featured, which are directly relevant to WONCA, include:
• 10 things to know about the health of refugees and migrants
• Country profiles of mental health resources
• A report from the Global Commission on the Future of Work, highlighting steps needed to provide healthier and safer workplaces for the workforce.

And of special interest to WONCA members will be the “Ten threats to global health in 2019”.

Among these are:
• Air pollution and climate change – already being actively monitored by our WP on the Environment, as mentioned above.
• Non-communicable diseases – being overseen by our SIG on NCDs
• Weak primary health care – a major concern of us all and one that WONCA will be working with WHO, post-Astana, to try to find solutions to.

Dr Garth Manning