28 January 1998
101ST SESSION OF THE WHO EXECUTIVE BOARD:
NEW HEALTH POLICY FOR THE WORLD,
NEW DIRECTOR-GENERAL FOR WHO
The 101st session of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Executive Board ended last night in Geneva with its 32 Board Members nominating Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, to become the fifth WHO Director-General in the 50 years of the Organization's existence. The nomination is to be considered by the 191 WHO Member States at the World Health Assembly to be held here in Geneva from 11 to 16 May 1998.
The Board considered the new global health policy - Health for All in the 21st Century which will be debated at the forthcoming World Health Assembly. Based on this policy, the Board proposed for adoption by the Fifty-first World Health Assembly the World Health Declaration which speaks of the improvement of the health and well-being of people as "the ultimate aim of social and economic development". It puts up-front the ethical concepts of equity, solidarity and social justice, and invites "all peoples and institutions to share the vision of health for all in the twenty-first century, and to endeavour in common to realize it".
The Board examined and proposed for adoption by the Fifty-first World Health Assembly a number of resolutions:
Tuberculosis remains one of the most important causes of death despite the existence of the highly cost-effective DOTS (directly observed treatment, short course) strategy to control the disease. The Board feared that poor treatment and inadequate control of anti-tuberculosis drugs will result in the development of drug-resistant strains that may make tuberculosis incurable. Recognizing that the already serious situation is worsening in many countries which have been slow to implement the strategy, the resolution urges WHO Member States to set a time before the year 2000 for the effective introduction of the DOTS strategy.
The Board also dealt with the ethical, scientific and social implications of cloning in human health in relation to the potential biomedical applications of this technique in such areas of human health as reproductive health, xenotransplantation (the transplantation in humans of animal cells, tissues or organs) and medical genetics. The resolution reaffirms that cloning for the replication of human individuals is ethically unacceptable and contrary to human dignity and integrity.
Blinding trachoma still constitutes a serious public health problem amongst the poorest population in 46 endemic countries, comprising 146 million active cases of the disease, in addition to almost six million people who are blind or visually disabled by trachoma. The resolution calls on Member States to collaborate in the recently established WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma and its network of interested partners.
On the subject of the WHO revised drug strategy, the Board urged Member States to reaffirm their commitment to develop, implement and monitor national drug policies to ensure equitable access to essential drugs. One third of the world's population has no guaranteed access to essential drugs. The Board expressed its concern that new world trade agreements may have a negative impact on local manufacturing capacity, access to and price of pharmaceuticals in developing countries. There are still serious incidents of poor quality pharmaceutical raw materials and finished products moving in international trade. Inappropriate donations, such as expired, mislabeled, or useless products continue to be common.
The Board also noted the report by the Director-General on infant and young child nutrition and the fact that the Director-General had decided to hold a technical consultation on HIV and infant feeding prior to the forthcoming World Health Assembly. Plans were also being made to convene a global technical consultation to review infant and young child feeding practices, including the current status of and trends in breastfeeding and complementary feeding.
Other resolutions adopted by the Board concerned: health promotion, the elimination of leprosy and Chagas disease, emerging and other communicable disease:antimicrobial resistance, sanitation for high-risk communities, and prevention of violence:anti-personnel mines.
Related stories:Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland Nominated for the Post of Director-General of WHO (27 January, 1998)
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