Highlights of the 56th World Health Assembly

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Man smoking cigarette

A major highlight of this year’s World Health Assembly was the unanimous adoption of the world's first public health treaty. A triumph for public health and multilateralism, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is expected to protect billions of people from the devastating impact of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland called the adoption a "historic moment in global public health".
WHA56.1 [pdf 255kb] | Tobacco Free Initiative

Appointment of the Director-General

Dr Lee WHA 56

On 21 May, Dr Jong-Wook Lee was elected as the next Director-General of WHO. A medical doctor and national of the Republic of Korea, Dr Lee has worked in WHO for nearly 20 years. In his speech to the Health Assembly, Dr Lee announced that he would undertake a major expansion of WHO's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to identify and respond to future disease outbreaks. Dr Lee begins his five-year term on 21 July 2003.
WHA56.2 [pdf 87kb] | Director-General Elect site

Revision of the International Health Regulations

WHO employee in the field

WHO's authority to verify disease outbreaks from all available official and unofficial sources was confirmed during the Health Assembly. In addition, WHO's leadership was re-affirmed in determining the severity of an outbreak through on-the-spot investigations to ensure that outbreaks are appropriately controlled. Meanwhile, work on revising the International Health Regulations will continue until a final draft is presented to the World Health Assembly in 2005.
WHA56.28 [pdf 118kb] | International Health Regulations

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

SARS coronavirus; Courtesy: University of Hong Kong

Recognizing SARS as “the first severe infectious disease to emerge in the twenty-first century”, the World Health Assembly called for the full support of all countries to control SARS and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. During the Health Assembly, WHO also announced the creation of a new US $100 million public-private initiative to fight SARS and build capacity for disease surveillance and outbreak response in China and the surrounding region.
WHA56.29 [pdf 121kb] | SARS information

Intellectual property rights, innovation and public health

Test tube thumbnail

Available data indicate that out of 1400 new products developed by the pharmaceutical industry between 1975 and 1999, only 13 were for tropical diseases. A resolution on intellectual property rights, innovation and public health, was adopted that echoed the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and public health, urging Member States to ensure that pharmaceutical patent policies do not work against public health.
WHA56.27 [pdf 118kb]

Reducing global measles mortality

Girl getting measles vaccination

Measles is the leading vaccine-preventable killer of children. With the aim of halving measles deaths by 2005, the World Health Assembly called for financial support and full implementation of the WHO-UNICEF strategic plan for measles mortality reduction 2001-2005.
WHA56.20 [pdf 103kb] | Measles information

Implementing the recommendations of the World report on violence and health

Global campaign to end violence

By adopting a resolution on implementing the recommendations of the World report on violence and health, countries agreed to develop national plans to ensure more targeted and coordinated action to prevent violence by all sectors of society. Each day around 2200 people commit suicide, 1400 die as a result of homicide, and 850 people are killed as a result of war. Thousands more suffer disabilities resulting from acts of non-fatal violence.
WHA56.24 [pdf 136kb] | World report on violence and health

Traditional medicine

Plant used for traditional medicines

The World Health Assembly called on countries to adopt and implement WHO's traditional medicine strategy. The strategy advocates for national policies and regulations, drug-safety monitoring systems, measures to protect traditional medical knowledge and plant resources, and where appropriate, the intellectual property rights of traditional practioners.
WHA56.31 [pdf 125kb] | WHO’s traditional medicine strategy

Strategy for child and adolescent health and development

Photo illustrating adolescent health

The World Health Assembly backed new measures aimed at saving the lives of millions of children and adolescents. The strategy focuses on reducing deaths in children under the age of five, where more than half the deaths are caused by malnutrition and preventable communicable diseases. It also focuses on the 1.2 billion adolescents worldwide who face health threats such as HIV/AIDS, violence and tobacco, and alcohol use.
WHA56.21 [pdf 116kb] | Child and adolescent health and development

28 May 2003