69th World Health Assembly

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I was fortunate to be granted the opportunity to attend the 69thWorld Health Assembly earlier this year with three other inspiring Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) women in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr Clarissa Fabre (incoming President-elect of MWIA), Dr Shelley Ross (Secretary, MWIA) and Professor Shafika Nasser. The World Health Assembly is the peak decision-making body of the World Health Assembly and is attended by delegates of the 194 Member States and focuses on the key health priorities and agenda proposed by the Executive Board.

Over the course of six days, the heavy agenda covered several key topics including antimicrobial resistance, safety of health care workers in areas of conflict, the Framework of Engagement of Non-State Actors (FENSA), migration and health as well as the importance of maternal, adolescent and child health. Of note, ‘The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’Health was thoroughly discussed over several meetings and side-events. The health of women, children and adolescent’s is essential to ensuring a prosperous and healthy future for all. The Global Strategy which was launched in September, 2015, by the UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon focuses on three key objectives: Survive (end preventable deaths), Thrive (ensure health and well-being) and Transform (expand enabling environments) which are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on enabling this target group to achieve their potential for health and well-being in all settings by 2030. It continues to expand on the unfinished Millennium Development Agenda and aims to ensure that no one is left behind.

The technical briefing on this strategy focused on providing technical resources and new evidence to member states to support them in the implementation of such strategies into their national programs and policies. The panel consisting of global health leaders from varied sectors and settings such as Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, WHO, Dr Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF, Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Her Excellency Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Canada discussed the challenges and opportunities for implementing such a strategy in member states. Moreover, theimportance of accountability and multi-lateral and multi-sectorial collaboration of such a strategy was reinforced by government and non-government organizations who noted these areas to be a key driver for success.

A focus on adolescent health (a neglected target group in many countries) was highlighted by Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General who stressed that we must act to improve health outcomes for young people as ‘for the first time in history 1.8 billion people are adolescents.” This in addition, to the Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing which was launched in May, 2016 has provided some much needed traction on this issue. As the MWIA community, we have the opportunity to contribute and advocate for young people to ensure that they reach their full potential. I was fortunate to have a meeting with DrMatti Parry, Technical Officer, Reproductive Health and Research (RHR), Adolescents and at-Risk Populations (AGH), WHO and Dr V. Chandra-Mouli Scientist – Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, Department of Reproductive Health and Research WHO provided me with some key areas for which we as members of VMWS, AFMW and globally as MWIA can make an impact at the individual and organizational level are:

  1. Promoting sexual education within our networks (both at the clinical and government level)
  2. Disseminating information in regards to implementing standards to improve adolescent friendly services(including advocating the development and application of these standards at a local and national level)
  3. Keeping informed on the numerous resources written by the WHO including the adolescent job aid(which is currently being updated) to ensure that we, as clinicians are appropriately engaging with adolescents in health services and conversations around family planning

Many individuals say that the agenda of the 69thWorld Health Assembly like the Sustainable Development Goals are ambitious. However, an ambitious agenda ensures that we can achieve better health for all and that no one is left behind.

Report by Dr Natalie Yap

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