From May 23-28, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened the 69th World Health Assembly, an annual gathering of ministers of health from 194 countries and experts to assess the state of health around the world and to agree on major priorities for the year. In six days, delegates agreed on 76 agenda items that will lead to a healthier, more prosperous world.  

With the adoption last year of two major global agreements – the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris agreement on climate change – compounded by the almost daily news we hear about health emergencies like Zika, expanded antimicrobial resistance, and the promise of polio eradication, one takeaway is clear: 2016 ushers in a new form of global development and cooperation and a new urgency to engage on global public health.

Here are four key themes from the 69th World Health Assembly: 

Resistance to antibiotics is a real threat. During World Health +SocialGood, WHO expert Dr. Keiji Fukuda explained the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance and how this phenomenon threatens us all if we do not move even faster to tackle it. To learn more, watch Dr. Fukuda lay out the scope of antimicrobial resistance. 

Climate change and health are increasingly interlinked. In her World Health Assembly keynote address, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted: “If the world does not fundamentally change its approach to energy within the next five years, there is a risk that the damage to the atmosphere will be irrevocable and continue to impact health for decades.” To learn more, watch Executive Secretary Figueres’ keynote.

New emergency reforms will help WHO respond quicker to outbreaks. In his World Health +SocialGood segment, WHO Executive Director Dr. Bruce Aylward explained how the organization is establishing a new Health Emergencies Program to ensure that health is protected during all types of outbreaks – from disease epidemics such as Ebola to natural disasters. To learn more, watch Dr. Aylward discuss emergency reforms.

We have the opportunity to end preventable maternal and child deaths and ensure that everyone has access to quality health coverage without the risk of impoverishment. The launch last week of the new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health, and the adoption of a resolution at the World Health Assembly on the Sustainable Development Goals – putting Universal Health Coverage at the center – provide the blueprint for how we can help everyone, especially the most vulnerable, not only survive, but thrive and transform their communities.  To learn more, watch Dr. Flavia Bustreo on World Health +SocialGood.


Together with the priorities and programs adopted this year at the World Health Assembly, the selection next year of a new Director-General to the World Health Organization will mean that the international global health body can and must continue to evolve over the coming months and years. 2016 is proving to be an exciting year for global health, and we look forward to seeing how the policies set at WHA 69 will help achieve health goals moving forward.