WONCA at the World Health Assembly 2014

The 67th World Health Assembly took place in the Palais des Nations, Geneva the week beginning 19th May 2014, fittingly also World Family Doctor Day! Several thousand delegates participated in the Assembly representing 194 member states and over 100 non-governmental organisations in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), including WONCA.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) takes place annually. As the main decision making body of the WHO it determines the policies of the Organization, reviews and approves its finances and activity. Similar to recent years there was a packed agenda discussing items ranging from Universal Health Coverage to the Eradication of Dracunculiasis. Margaret Chan’s opening address, ‘Health has an obligatory place on any post-2015 development agenda’, covered subjects including inequalities, climate change, infectious diseases, nutrition, NCDs, cancer and anti-microbial resistance. In particular she spoke about the importance of access to essential medicines and need for strong government led health policies to achieve universal health coverage.

Photo: In the non-governmental organisations' gallery. Left to right: Garth Manning (WONCA CEO), Amanda Howe (WONCA President Elect), Michael Kidd (WONCA President).

Over the course of the 19th and 20th May WONCA's delegation participated in over a dozen meetings with WHO staff and other non-governmental organisations. These consisted of a mixture of establishing new contacts and discussing the progress of existing collaborative activities. In particular discussions took place in the areas of health workforce development and health service delivery policies, more specifically on current projects on delivering People-Centred and Integrated care, Classification systems, Leadership, Education, Quality and Safety. The work of several of WONCA's working parties and special interest groups was discussed with WHO staff and other NGOs, in particular recent publications including the Declaration of Quito, the Rural Medical Education Guidebook and the Toolkit for the Development of Palliative Care in the Community were highlighted. Meetings with the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Regional Director and the Executive Manager of Strategic Partnerships from the WHO's European Regional office helped further strengthen WONCA's links at regional level. Of note significant work is currently being undertaken in the WHO's Eastern Mediterranean office to develop policies specifically aimed at strengthening Family Practice and the role of primary care in mental health. Attendance at the WHA also facilitated contact with key representatives from other health professional organisations with common objectives, including the International Council of Nursing (ICN), the International Association of Patient’s Organizations (IAPO), the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA), the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), World Medical Association (WMA) and a number of palliative care NGOs including the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA).

Photo: Meeting with WHO's contact point for WONCA. Left to right: Michael Kidd (WONCA President), Hernan Montenegro (WHO), Garth Manning (WONCA CEO)

By the close of the Assembly 25 resolutions had been passed on a range of subjects. Statements with reference to the resolutions on Addressing the global challenge of violence in particular against women and girls and on Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course were submitted to the assembly by the WONCA delegation in collaboration with the WMA, IFMSA and MWIA. Contribution to these had been informed thanks to prior input by WONCA's SIG on Family Violence and SIG on Cancer and Palliative Care respectively.

WONCA’s relationship with the WHO continues to be strengthened in particular as a result of its official link through Dr Hernan Montenegro, Health Systems Advisor and recently appointed Coordinator for the Services Organization and Clinical Interventions team within the Service Delivery and Safety Department. It is foreseen that this new department will become the primary locus for important work on primary care and family medicine over the coming years. This will be important for WONCA's ongoing collaboration with the WHO.

Photo: Amanda Howe (WONCA President Elect) addressing participants on the importance of strengthening Family Medicine during a side event on Person Centred and Integrated Health Care.

Dr Maria-Luisa M Pettigrew
WONCA Executive Board Member, WHO Liaison 2013-2106