Public Health Important Focus ‘In These Troubled Times,’ WHO’s Chan Says At World Health Assembly Opening

“At a time when the world is dealing with myriad challenges, from climate change to food insecurity, it is more important than ever to ensure that public health receives both the attention and resources it deserves to ensure the well-being of millions, a senior United Nations official said” on Monday, the U.N. News Centre reports. During her opening remarks at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the governing body of the WHO, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “In these troubled times, public health looks more and more like a refuge, a safe harbor of hope that allows, and inspires, all countries to work together for the good of humanity,” according to the news service. “She added that nothing reflects this spirit better than the growing commitment to universal health coverage,” and she “also stressed the need to ensure that health occupies a high place on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the deadline for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the news service writes (5/20).

In addition, Chan “highlighted several issues that relate to intellectual property rights and innovation — such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), pandemics, and research and development for neglected tropical diseases,” and she “also had strong words to say about the conditions that health workers face, especially in countries of conflict,” Intellectual Property Watch reports (New/Ngo, 5/20). Chan discussed “two new disease threats, H7N9 and the novel coronavirus, or Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV),” and “[s]he praised China’s quick response and its transparency in sharing clinical investigation and virus information with the global health community,” CIDRAP writes (Schnirring, 5/20). “In a message sent to the opening of the Assembly, [U.N.] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the MDGs have ‘undoubtedly been good’ for global health,” according to the U.N. News Centre (5/20). About 3,000 delegates attend the annual WHA and will “decide on issues such as disease prevention, monitoring of health improvement markers, polio eradication, and the WHO’s budget,” according to CIDRAP (5/20). The U.N. News Centre notes “the Assembly will be considering three draft global action plans — for non-communicable diseases, mental health, and the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment” (5/20).