More than 30 resolutions and decisions were adopted at this year's World Health Assembly in different areas of public health: decisions on diabetes, disabilities, ending violence against children, eye care, HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, local production of medicines, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, noncommunicable diseases, nursing and midwifery, oral health, social determinants of health and strategic directions for the health and care workforce, reported the World Health Organization (WHO).
In his closing remarks, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, "We’re very encouraged that cases and deaths are continuing to decline globally, but it would be a monumental error for any country to think the danger has passed," urging countries to commit to supporting the targets to achieve COVID-19 vaccination of at least 10% of the population of all countries by the end of September, and at least 30% by the end of the year.
He continued, "One day – hopefully soon – the pandemic will be behind us but we will still face the same vulnerabilities that allowed a small outbreak to become a global pandemic. That’s why the one recommendation that I believe will do most to strengthen both WHO and global health security is the recommendation for a treaty on pandemic preparedness and response."
Dr. Ghebreyesus echoed the message that a strong WHO needs to be properly financed as it has been amplified by all the expert reviews that reported to this Assembly. He urged Member States to seize this pivotal moment and chart a course to a sustainable financial model.
The Assembly focused on following issues:
Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies
COVID-19 and other major disease outbreaks, as well as continuing humanitarian situations, highlight the need for a stronger collective and coordinated approach to preparedness and response to health emergencies.
Member States today agreed to meet again in November, at a special session of the World Health Assembly, to consider developing a WHO global agreement.
“We need a generational commitment that outlives budgetary cycles, election cycles and media cycles, that creates an overarching framework for connecting the political, financial and technical mechanisms needed for strengthening global health security,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. Such a treaty would “foster improved sharing, trust and accountability, and provide the solid foundation on which to build other mechanisms for global health security.”
Member States also agreed on a Resolution reaffirming WHO’s role as the directing and coordinating authority in health during emergencies and beyond, and to aid governments towards achieving resilient health systems and universal health coverage. The Resolution provides recommendations to WHO to strengthen current and future work notably via convening a Member States’ Working Group on Strengthening WHO preparedness and response to health emergencies, open to all Member States, to review recommendations from the various reports received at this Assembly. The Working Group is tasked with reporting to next year’s Assembly.
The Resolution calls on Member States to provide WHO with sustainable financing, while continuing their response to the pandemic and strengthening preparedness capacities, including strengthening their workforce, research activities, surveillance systems, while adopting a One Health Approach; while continuing to work in a spirit of global cooperation, sharing reliable information, countering infodemics and stigmatization; and ensuring response efforts do not exacerbate other health challenges.
Mental health during public health emergencies
Countries are increasingly showing greater recognition of the importance of this area. For example, during the pandemic, the number of countries with a functioning multisectoral mental health and psychosocial support coordination platform in humanitarian emergencies has doubled while 90% of Member States responding to a WHO survey in early 2021 reported that mental health and psychosocial support were included in their COVID-19 response plans.
In 2020, a wide range of resources were developed in many languages by WHO in collaboration with partners, including: a stress management guide for the general public; a guide for COVID-19 responders on basic psychosocial skills; and a toolkit to help older adults maintain mental well-being. In addition, WHO has collaborated on the elaboration of the first-ever program for rapid deployment of experts in mental health and psychosocial support during public health and humanitarian emergencies. Launched in January 2020, more than 20 deployments have been undertaken to date.
Delegates to the World Health Assembly endorsed the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, including the plan’s updated implementation options and indicators. For the first time, the plan includes an indicator on preparedness for providing mental health and psychosocial support during emergencies.
The meeting of the Executive Board will take place on June 2. The provisional agenda, list of EB members are at: https://apps.who.int/gb/e/e_eb149.html and https://apps.who.int/gb/gov/en/composition-of-the-board_en.html