Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly: Promoting health through the life-course

Promoting health through the life-course was at the spotlight of the discussions at the Sixty-sixth World Health Assembly, held 20–28 May 2013, with discussions taking place in the official agenda as well as numerous side events organized in collaboration with Member States and other partners.


Special events

In addition to the busy agenda, there were more side events than at any other Assembly – close to 50 – on topics ranging from addressing violence against women to the impact of taking a human rights approach to improving women and children’s health. Below some highlights.

Violence against women

Belgium, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, United States of America, and Zambia adopted a statement on violence against women and girls. The seven governments participated in a panel discussion organized as a side event to the 66th World Health Assembly.

Panelists recognized WHO’s work to date, and noted that the health sector has a key role to play in preventing and responding to the problem, as part of a robust multi-sectoral approach that engages governments and civil society in countries as well as internationally. The panel speakers condemned all forms of violence against women and girls, which they agreed is “a major global public health, gender equality and human rights challenge, touching every country and every part of society”.

Recognizing WHO’s leadership in this area, the statement, read by Ms Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services of the United States at the end of the event, proposes that an agenda item on this topic be discussed at the 67th World Health Assembly.

Technical briefing on the IHP+

The Technical Briefing, “Aligning for better results: IHP+,” was hosted by Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO and World Bank Group President Dr Jim Yong Kim. Panelists included IHP+ partners: the European Commission, Ethiopia, the Global Fund, Myanmar, Rwanda, Senegal, Sweden, and an NGO from Nigeria. The International Health Partnership convenes all partners, including governments, development agencies and NGOs, to support a single, sound national health plan, and make aid and development co-operation more effective.

USAID, represented at the event by Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID announced that the United States has joined the IHP+. The importance of a country-led aid development process, marked by independent accountability and transparency was the main key take away message of the discussions.

Securing the future – Saving the lives of women and children

Hosted by the delegations of Nigeria, Norway, and the United States of America, with World Vision International and PATH, the event emphasized the impact of innovation in overcoming barriers to access. It also addressed ongoing efforts under global initiatives, with a focus on the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.

In addition to the call from Nigeria for countries to “domesticate” or adapt the global initiatives to the local needs, there was a clear call for bold and concerted action, with emphasis on the coordination of efforts and synergies between the various initiatives emerging from the concerted call to action of the UN Global Strategy for Women and Children’s health and the Every Woman Every Child movement.

Gender, equity and human rights: Disaggregating data to get the real story

In this event organized by Canada, with Partners in Population and Development and the World Health Organization, participants heard some examples from Spain, Mexico and Canada on the importance of data disaggregation, a central component of gender, equity and human rights program approaches at global and country levels. Disaggregated data are useful to track progress on health goals, revealing differences between sub-groups that overall averages can mask. Health equity data provide an evidence base for equity- and rights-oriented interventions, and are a key component of the movement toward equality and universal health coverage.

Addressing functional decline and dependence in ageing populations

As a follow up to the two day high-level meeting on ageing in the Netherlands on April 25/26 this year, a side event to the WHA was organized to discuss further the issue and analyse the opportunities and challenges that rapidly ageing populations pose to governments.

Moderated by Flavia Bustreo, the panel had Assistant secretary for Aging, Kathy Greenlee from the United States, Vice minister for Health Surveillance, Jarbas Barbosa from Brazil, as well as representatives Dr Hiroyuki Hori from Japan and Mr Rene Prijkel from the Netherlands who discussed experiences in their respective countries. Dr Peter Lloyd Sherlock gave an overview of long-term care in low and middle income countries.

Women’s and children’s health: Evidence of impact of human rights

At this event, organized by WHO and the Government of Germany and co-hosted by the Government of Norway, the results of the study on the evidence of impact of a human rights-based approach on women’s and children’s health was presented. Speakers highlighted the findings of the report, which concludes that applying human rights to women’s and children’s health policies, programmes and other interventions not only helps governments comply with their binding national and international obligations, but also contributes to improving the health of women and children.

Following the presentation, a lively panel discussion took place with Praveen Mishra (Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Population), Charles Mwansambo (Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health of Malawi), Jarbas Barbosa (Secretary of Health of Brasil), Isha Dyfan (Chief of Women’s Rights and Gender Section at OHCHR) and Mesfin Teklu (Director for Maternal and Child Health at World Vision International).

Discussions emphasized the need for a platform to deepen dialogue on governmental implementation of a human rights-based approach to women’s and children’s health, as well as WHO’s leadership in working with OHCHR and other UN Agencies in generating multi-disciplinary research on the impact of human rights on women’s and children’s health.

Maternal and child health: MDGs 4 & 5 and beyond 2015

This high-level event focused on the progress done in various countries towards the achievement of MDGs 4&5. Ministers of Health of Bangladesh and Ethiopia and high level representatives from Indonesia and Tanzania shared their national experiences and mechanisms in their own countries in accelerating progress towards MDGs 4 and 5 and beyond , discussing the challenges, success factors and accountability mechanisms around women’s and children’s health.

The frame of these presentations was the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and the recommendations of Commission on Information and Accountability. Panelists included representation from the US, and contributions from the floor from Canada and the Inter-Parliamentarian Union. There was a good discussion and reflections on the “unfinished business” which requires attention beyond 2015.