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World Health Organization's (WHO) Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly (WHA) – Geneva, Switzerland – 21-26 May 2012
by IAPO at 3:53PM Thursday 07 June 2012 (News)

In May, KP Tsang, IAPO Chair Elect, Jo Groves, IAPO CEO and Jeremiah Mwangi, IAPO Policy and External Affairs Director attended the World Health Organization's (WHO) Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly (WHA) held in Geneva, Switzerland.

At the WHA, IAPO made three interventions on agenda items of importance to IAPO, the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), counterfeit medical products and health systems strengthening. IAPO also held a side meeting in collaboration with four of its international members who are in official relations with WHO, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF), Thalassemia International Federation (TIF) and the World Hepatitis Alliance entitled: Patient-Centred Indicators for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases.

On NCDs, IAPO called upon the WHO to:

  • Take action to address ALL chronic diseases including, for example mental, neuromuscular, immunological and development disorders
  • Agree a target on access to essential diagnostics, treatment and palliative care for NCDS
  • Recognise the important work of patient groups and encourage equity between stakeholders in multisectoral action

Member States agreed to adopt a global target of a 25% reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2025. WHO is further working to reach consensus on additional targets on high blood pressure, tobacco, salt/sodium and physical inactivity. Member States also expressed support to adding further targets relating to obesity, fat intake, alcohol, cholesterol and health system responses such as availability of essential medicines for NCDs. 

For more information on IAPO’s work with WHO on NCDs and how this links with the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, read IAPO’s briefing on the WHA:

Read the IAPO intervention on non-communicable diseases

Read the IAPO press release on non-communicable diseases

On counterfeit medical products IAPO called upon the WHO to:

  • Take action to protect patients against the threat of counterfeit medical products
  • Adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to reduce the proliferation of counterfeit medicines around the world
  • Include patients in initiatives to tackle counterfeit medical products

The resolution for a Member State mechanism for international cooperation against counterfeit medical products was approved by WHO. Many countries stressed the need for strengthening regulatory authorities and the critically important role that WHO plays in enhancing regional and international networking among the regulators. IAPO will continue to work closely with WHO in this area and advocate for patient involvement in the fight against counterfeit products.

Read the IAPO intervention on counterfeit medical products

Read the IAPO press release on counterfeit medical products

On health system strengthening IAPO called upon the WHO to:

  • Put patients at the centre of healthcare systems
  • Establish robust national or subnational health policies and strategies
  • Develop frameworks to involve patients in policy development

The progress report on health system strengthening was approved by Committee A of the WHA. IAPO will continue to work with WHO to ensure that patients are at the centre of healthcare systems worldwide.

Read the IAPO intervention on health system strengthening

Read the IAPO press release on health system strengthening

Patient-Centred Indicators for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases
The side meeting brought together a range of stakeholders from across the healthcare sector who shared their views on patient involvement in the healthcare sector and in the prevention and control of NCDs. 

During the meeting, participants discussed creating a framework for patient engagement in decision-making and policy-making, with patient groups sharing patient involvement initiatives that they have undertaken. There was also a discussion on whether the skills of patient groups were being effectively used in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and examined the role that patient groups currently and could potentially undertake.

Participants recognised that the value of patient engagement is not always recognised and needs to be highlighted, and that the situation varies considerably between different Member States. Therefore, it is important to be flexible and adapt to local conditions.

There was agreement that there needs to be a framework for patient engagement in health system strengthening.

KP highlighted how these events are evidence that patient-centred healthcare is gaining recognition from the international community: "These engagements demonstrate that the patient voice is being disseminated more effectively on this governmental healthcare platform, and will lead to ever-increasing influence on healthcare policy at the international, regional and national level."

Regina agreed, stating: "The patient is, more than ever before, increasingly recognised as an important healthcare stakeholder and this was evident in the side meetings organised by WHO. The one I was part of, which focused on empowering patients in pharmacovigilance demonstrated that the patient voice is getting heard. What is important now is keeping momentum and ensuring that action is taken on whatever commitments are made."

What is the WHA?
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body for WHO. It is attended by delegations from all 194 Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. The Health Assembly appoints the Director-General, supervises the financial policies of the Organization, and reviews and approves the proposed programme budget. It similarly considers reports of the Executive Board, which it instructs in regard to matters upon which further action, study, investigation or report may be required.

IAPO’s role
As a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Official Relations with WHO, IAPO has the right to appoint a representative to participate in WHO's meetings. IAPO is able to make statements on agenda items at the Executive Board and World Health Assembly. IAPO can also facilitate the attendance of members at such events.

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