Maternal, newborn child and adolescent health featured at World Health Assembly
Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health issues featured prominently in reports, resolutions and official side-events at the sixty-fourth World Health Assembly (WHA), held 16-24 May at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
As the Organization's supreme decision-making body, the WHA is attended by delegations from all Member States. The key themes this year were the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and noncommunicable diseases.
A breakfast briefing was held on 17 May to provide WHA delegates with a preview of the upcoming 'State of the World's Midwifery' report, which is to be published at the International Congress of Midwives in Durban, South Africa, on 20 June. The meeting was very well attended, with around 70 participants including over 50 country representatives, and provided an important opportunity to discuss the preliminary policy recommendations emanating from the report.
The health of young people was discussed for the first time at the World Health Assembly, with 'Youth and Health Risks' as the theme of a report by the secretariat, a resolution and an official side-event sponsored by the Government of Tunisia on 19 May. Speakers at the side-event included the Minister of Health, Tunisia, the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh, the Director Social Affairs and Health, Finland, and youth leaders from Tunisia, as well as high-level representatives of WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA and the YWCA. The resolution received overwhelming support from over 30 countries from all regions and was adopted by the WHA delegates on 23 May. It calls upon countries to develop comprehensive policies and strategies for youth health, paying particular attention to the prevention and care of sexual and reproductive health including HIV, as well as mental health and health-compromising behaviours such as smoking or harmful alcohol use. It also suggests that countries collect good data on the health of young people and address the main determinants of youth health. The resolution calls for an intersectoral approach to health and for WHO to further strengthen collaboration with other UN organizations working on health and its determinants.
A technical briefing on 'The Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health' was held on 19 May. The Commission was established by WHO in late 2010, following the launch of the UNSG's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, to develop a framework for reporting, oversight and accountability on women's and children's health. At the briefing, delegates received an advance copy of the Commission's report, Keeping Promises, Measuring Results which outlines ten key recommendations, to increase the likelihood that pledges for women's and children's health are honoured and that resources are spent in the most effective way to save lives (see more information below).
During the briefing, more than 15 countries (Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Comoros, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Tajikistan, Togo, and Viet Nam) announced new commitments to reduce their rates of maternal, newborn and child mortality, as part of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. The Government of Norway announced Kr 50 million ($9.5 million) towards implementation of the recommendations.
In addition, several relevant technical items were discussed in the WHA committees ,including the 'Health-related Millennium Development Goals', 'Infant & young child nutrition: Implementation plan' and 'Working towards universal coverage of maternal, newborn and child health interventions'. A resolution on "Working towards the reduction of perinatal and neonatal mortality" urging Member States to further advance perinatal and neonatal care as a priority and develop plans to increase access to cost-effective interventions was also adopted.