Member States expressed alarm that millions of people cannot access life-saving and health-enhancing interventions. Out-of-pocket spending on health catastrophically affects over 1 billion people, pushing hundreds of millions of people into extreme poverty. The situation has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, Member States agreed a resolution supporting preparations for the United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in September 2023. UHC means that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need without financial hardship.
In a transformative policy shift, Member States across high-, middle- and low-income countries expressed strong commitment to reorient their health systems based on primary health care (PHC) as a foundation for achieving health for all and reaching the furthest left behind first. About 90% of UHC interventions can be delivered using a PHC approach; from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care, potentially saving 60 million lives by 2030.
The Member States emphasized the importance of demonstrating the highest-level political commitment at the HLM in September with the aim of achieving resulting in a concise, action-oriented declaration for UHC.
Preparation for the high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage
In a new resolution agreed today, the World Health Assembly called for timely additional global efforts to strengthen the planning and provision of quality emergency, critical and operative care (ECO) services. Robust ECO services are at the foundation of national health systems, and the need to be able to respond effectively to emergency events, including all hazards.
Concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed pervasive gaps in the capacity, preparedness of delivery of ECO worldwide, the Assembly urges Member States to, among other actions, create national policies for sustainable funding, effective governance and universal access to needs-based ECO care for all; and promote more coherent, inclusive and accessible approaches to safeguard effective ECO care in disasters, fragile settings and conflict-affected areas.
The Assembly requests the Secretariat to provide progress reports on implementation of this resolution in 2025, 2027 and 2029.
Integrated emergency, critical and operative care for universal health coverage and protection from health emergencies
Delegates today endorsed a new menu of cost-effective interventions recommended by WHO recognized as “best buys” to help prevent and control noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). It includes an increased number of “best buys”, giving countries of every income level more options to save more lives from the world’s top killers.
Among these are prevention interventions such as support to help people quit smoking, promotion and support for breastfeeding and policies to protect children from harmful food marketing.
The updated “best buys” also include treatment for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and the early diagnosis and treatment of cancers such as breast, cervical, colorectal and childhood cancers. They also integrate early detection and comprehensive treatment of cancer for people living with HIV.
The interventions will help countries to accelerate national action to prevent and control NCDs, accelerating progress towards achieving the SDG 3.4 target and paving the way for increased political commitment in the lead-up to the fourth High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the prevention and control of NCDs in 2025.
The Health Assembly also took note of the report on the acceleration plan to support Member States in implementing the recommendations for the prevention and management of obesity over the life course. Twenty-eight countries are now rolling out the acceleration plan, the progress will be recorded and reported back to the Assembly. Their experiences will inform policies and action for all other Member States to accelerate action on obesity.
Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and mental health
Refugees and migrants have a right to access health services during their journey and in the host country without experiencing financial hardship. This effort has an important place in the overall global drive for universal health coverage by 2030.
Today in Committee B Member States agreed a resolution to extend the WHO Global Action Plan on promoting the health of refugees and migrants until 2030. The global action plan addresses various challenges faced by refugees and migrants and outlines specific measures to be put in place, such as:
The resolution lists a range of actions to be taken by the WHO Secretariat, such as convening informal consultations at least every two years with Member States to identify and share challenges, lessons learned, and best practices for the implementation of actions within the WHO global action plan; providing technical assistance, developing guidelines and promoting knowledge sharing; as well as collaboration and coordination within and among Member States.
The decision comes ahead of the Third global consultation on the health of refugees and migrants to take place in June 2023, which aims to assess progress, build further political commitment on refugee and migrant health, inform future policy deliberations, including the upcoming 2023 General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage, and guide the continuous implementation of WHO global action plan.
The WHO Secretariat will report on the progress in implementing this resolution to the Health Assembly in 2025, 2027, and 2029.
Extension of the WHO global action plan on promoting the health of refugees and migrants, 2019–2023 to 2030
The World Health Assembly (WHA) today agreed to extend the WHO traditional medicine strategy 2014-2023 for an additional two years, until 2025. The Assembly requested the Director-General to draft a new global strategy 2025–2034 and present it to the 78th WHA in 2025 for consideration.
The Assembly recognized the efforts of Member States to evaluate the potential of traditional and complementary Medicine (T&CM) through an evidence-based approach, including rigorous clinical research. It also recognized the value and the diversity of the cultures of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and their holistic traditional knowledge.
The decision highlighted the importance of WHO’s role in providing technical support for the integration of evidence-based T&CM into national health systems and services, and the support to regulation of T&CM practices, products and practitioners.
Under the 2014-2023 strategy, WHO is supporting countries that wish to develop a proactive policy towards this important – and often vibrant and expanding – part of health care. WHO’s strategic policy and technical support enables countries to harness the potential of T&CM in contributing to health, well-being, and people-centred health care.
Since 2014, WHO has been focused on building the knowledge base for active management of T&CM and the appropriate integration, regulation and supervision of evidence-based, safe and quality T&CM into national health systems and services.
WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2014–2023, Report by the Director-General
Member States endorsed a resolution recognizing the critical role of medical oxygen for treatment of hypoxemia (blood oxygen deficiency) across many diseases, including pneumonia and tuberculosis, and in particular for older populations and other vulnerable groups, and for surgery and trauma.
In developing countries many health facilities lack uninterrupted access to medical oxygen, resulting in preventable deaths – a problem that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when the need for medical oxygen has exceeded the capacities of many health systems.
Oxygen has been included on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML) since 1979 and has been included in the WHO EML for children (EMLc) since its first edition in 2007. There are no therapeutic alternatives to oxygen on the Model Lists.
This resolution recognizes that medical oxygen generation and distribution requires a specialized infrastructure. It also underscores the need for its delivery to be safely and accurately executed using good quality medical devices through interdisciplinary health workforce, including engineers.
The new resolution urges Member States to set up, as appropriate, national and subnational medical oxygen systems in order to secure the uninterrupted provision of medical oxygen to health care facilities at all levels including both rural and urban set-ups. It underlines WHO’s role in supporting Member States through developing guidelines, technical specifications, forecasting tools, training materials and other resources, and by providing technical support especially designed to improve access to medical oxygen to meet the needs of health systems in developing countries.
The above items were included in the following documents:
Reorienting health systems to primary health care as a resilient foundation for universal health coverage and preparations for a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage, Report by the Director-General
The consolidated report by the Director-General
A76/7 Add.1 – Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and mental health, Report by the Director-General
Increasing access to medical oxygen
The WHA evaluated the unique epidemiological opportunity which exists over the next six months to eradicate the remaining chains of endemic wild poliovirus transmission. Operations need to be adapted to reach the remaining un- or under-immunized children in the identified subnational consequential geographies.
The Assembly noted that the effort to eradicate polio remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern under the auspices of the International Health Regulations and urged countries to minimize the risk and consequences of spread of disease to polio-free areas.
At the same time, delegates called for continued global support to the effort, to ensure all necessary financial and political commitments to achieve success are mobilized. Noting the role the polio infrastructure plays in broader public health efforts, delegates urged this infrastructure to be transitioned into national health plans in a context-specific manner.
In conclusion, the Assembly called for collective and global collaboration to achieve a lasting polio-free world once and for all.
Poliomyelitis eradication, Report by the Director-General
Polio transition planning and polio post-certification, Report by the Director-General
Today Member States and partners participated in a Strategic Roundtable on A safer and healthier tomorrow through restoring essential immunization today. Immunization is a priority programme for WHO, particularly in 2023, following the significant setbacks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With 67 million children missing at least one essential vaccine during the last three years finding these children is a matter of urgency.
Efforts to find zero-dose children (children who have not received one single dose of vaccine) will require effort from organizations and individuals at all levels – global, national and local – to catch-up on vaccination coverage, and recover and strengthen their immunization programmes. As Dr George Mwinnyaa, a community health worker pointed out “Community health workers know where the zero-dose children are, they do not need maps for their own communities”.
Today’s roundtable was a collaborative discussion about the role of community and frontline health workers in catch-up efforts, along with the funding and partnerships required to recover from programme disruptions and to strengthen systems to ensure equitable access to immunization services.
The session was introduced by Dr Kate O’Brien, WHO Director, Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, moderated by Renee Ngamau and featured Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General; Dr Ali Haji Adam Abubakar, Minister of Health, Somalia; Dr Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; Dr Yassen Tcholakov, Health worker, Canada; Dr George Mwinnya, Community health worker, Ghana; Dr Sheetal Sharma, Senior Immunization Advisor, CORE Group; and Dr Andrei Cazacu, Ministry of Health, Moldova.
“We have an emergency in front of us”, said Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General, Universal Health Coverage, Life Course, in concluding the session “the clock is ticking, we will act now and act together.”