WONCA-WHO Memorandum of Understanding signed

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WONCA President, Donald Li, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO sign a Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of both organisations, reflecting the crucial role played by family medicine in achieving the goal of Universal Health Coverage. The MOU offers all our members and Member Organisations an official entry point to build even closer collaboration with WHO colleagues globally.

We know from surveys that our relationship, collaboration and advocacy with WHO is extremely important to our Member Organisations.

Over the years we have steadily built our reputation at WHO as a respected representative professional organisation, representing more than 500,000 family doctors and general practitioners across the globe.

For some years we have been privileged to have the official status of ‘Organization in Official Relations’ or ‘Non State Actor’ with WHO. This status enables us to contribute to policy papers, to respond to drafts of publications and policy documents, to engage directly in the debates at WHO, as well as attending the annual Executive Board and the World Health Assembly, where major decisions are taken by the WHO Member States. It allows us access, through our Working Parties and Special Interest Groups and through our Executive, to provide specialist inputs on a wide range of topics, contributing to global health policy and implementation.

Many of us were disappointed that the final Astana Declaration did not reference the central role played by family doctors and general practitioners, despite their role being in all the preceding drafts of the document. With WONCA’s active engagement, many of the technical papers and presentations at the Astana Conference did focus on the crucial role played by family medicine. But we felt this did not go far enough.

In an earlier ‘In my view …’ column I highlighted our agenda for the biennium. I cite it here as a reminder:

Key external priorities for the 2018-2020 biennium are to liaise effectively with WHO, raise the WONCA profile and increase visibility of WONCA globally. Our agenda has been set. We will take on the challenge, using the body of expertise available in our membership. We will assist WONCA Regional Presidents to liaise effectively with WHO regional offices. We will increase, co-ordinate and target our liaison with WHO at the global policy level.

In November I wrote to the Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressing our disappointment at the absence of family medicine from the Astana Declaration and received a very positive response. During December and January, we worked with senior colleagues at WHO to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (an MOU), and I am delighted to report that this was signed – both by Dr Tedros and by me - during the WHO’s Executive Board at the end of January.

MOUs are a relative rarity in WHO. This MOU acknowledges the central role played by family medicine in achieving Universal Health Coverage. It also offers the potential to work in even closer collaboration with WHO on policy and implementation issues which will progress Universal Health Coverage globally.

The MOU strengthens and consolidates our position with WHO. It does not supersede our existing relationship but recognises on record – at Director General level of WHO – that family doctors are an important part of the primary health care team necessary to achieve comprehensive patient-centred care and Universal Health Coverage.

We look forward to ever closer collaborative working with WHO - at central level in Geneva,, across the regions and at country level, to progress the goal of effective, accessible, qualified primary care for everyone. The MOU will provide WONCA Region Presidents the long-awaited entry point to engage more effectively and proactively with WHO colleagues, in country and regional offices.

We will continue to build our reputation and support for our family medicine colleagues, to make sure our voice is not just heard, but listened to, and acted on. We will continue to address the challenges we have set ourselves, on behalf of our members.

Donald Li's address on the signing of the MOU with the WHO.

Director General Dr Tedros and gathered colleagues, WONCA has had a close relationship with WHO for many years. This MOU between us is a consolidation of that commitment and a pledge for the future.

The consequences of the Astana Declaration and the achievement of SDG3 are of utmost importance to our members, in the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage for every person everywhere.

WONCA has 600,000 members in 150 countries and territories. We are provide quality primary care to millions of people globally. We recognise that effective, timely primary care delivery is not only about the doctors - we value working in professional and competent multidisciplinary primary care teams to reach ever greater numbers and population groups.

This MOU provides a springboard to strengthen our collaboration with WHO – at central level here in Geneva, through technical and policy collaboration – but also at regional level and at country level.

Our Member Organisations will relish working with WHO country and regional colleagues on a wide range of issues in which family doctors and GPs have specialist expertise. This includes, of course, planning, delivering, accrediting and monitoring primary care programmes. It includes the establishment of - and curriculum development for - family medicine programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. But our expertise also includes system development to support effective primary care, Health Security, Health Emergencies, Mental Health, Measurement and Classification of primary care, Environment, Workers Health and Disaster Risk Reduction.

We welcome this MOU and the joint commitment it signifies. We look forward to working with our WHO colleagues to reach every corner of the globe, to achieve effective, accessible primary care for every single person.