As global health experts gather at the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) from May 19-28, what are the pressing issues on the agenda? Here are a few big topics that will be discussed, as well as a video preview of key issues from Ambassador John Lange, the UN Foundation’s Senior Fellow for Global Health Diplomacy.
The theme for this year’s assembly is Universal Health Coverage, which essentially means we are working toward a world where everyone has equal access to quality health care without suffering financial hardship.
Many countries are grappling with how to strengthen health systems in order to ensure quality services are widely available, and still make it affordable for both the country and its citizens. Universal Health Coverage is a fundamental part of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3, and the conversation during WHA will focus on how the world can ensure no one gets left behind on the journey to good health.
A Fit-For-Purpose World Health Organization
The first half of 2019 has been transformative for the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In March, Dr. Tedros unveiled sweeping reforms and organizational changes in an effort to create a more fit-for-purpose WHO that is better able to respond to health threats around the world. As diseases like measles, malaria, and Ebola resurge, it’s imperative member states embrace the new WHO and pass the budget needed to fight back against health challenges.
Health Impacts of Climate Change
As we recently saw with Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in March, climate-related natural disasters quickly turn into health disasters. Cholera and malaria outbreaks, malnutrition, and a lack of access to basic health care services can all swiftly follow climactic events, which appear to be happening with more frequency and force.
Through both official and non-official side events, the 72nd WHA will convene important conversations between the health, energy, and climate sectors to try and create collaborative, sustainable, and innovative solutions to help reduce climate change and the health threats that stem as a result.
Global Health Threats
As the Democratic Republic of Congo aims to contain the ongoing Ebola outbreak, and multiple countries, including the United States, battle a resurgence of measles, it’s clear that new and recurring infectious disease threats risk jeopardizing valuable progress made toward Sustainable Development Goal 3. Additional threats like antimicrobial resistance risk upending economies, as well as lives, and will require action from multiple sectors, including the health, agriculture, veterinary, and pharmaceutical sectors to help stop superbugs. If these emerging threats are not tackled, progress made during the Millennium Development Goal era and now under the Sustainable Development Goal framework is at serious risk.
Sustaining Partnerships for Progress
In 2019-2020, there are multiple global health-focused multilateral organizations seeking significant additional funds and ongoing political support in order to deliver on the SDGs. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization are all seeking significant financial contributions through replenishments or pledging moments in order to continue to help fight the world’s biggest diseases and ensure everyone, everywhere is able to access everything from routine immunizations to disease outbreak response. While these are all large financial asks happening around the same time, the global health community has been clear that it will take sustained financial and political support from countries around the world for each of these organizations if we are going to be able to deliver on the promise of health and well-being for all.