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Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly: daily notes on proceedings

Notes: Thursday, 24 May 2012

WHO reform

Member States discussed a set of reform proposals in three areas: programmes and priority setting, governance and management. Delegates reaffirmed support for the Director-General's reform agenda, reiterating the need for comprehensive reform and for WHO to become more effective in its normative and technical assistance roles, and to improve accountability and transparency. They encouraged greater focus on results and enhanced governance. Proposals around improving monitoring of WHO’s work were welcomed.

On programmes and priority setting, delegates discussed a draft outline of the 12th General Programme of Work (GPW) which will cover the years 2014-19. The draft had been prepared following a meeting of Member States on programme and priority setting that took place in February 2012. That meeting had agreed categories of work and criteria for setting priorities within each category.

Countries expressed broad acceptance of the proposed five categories: communicable diseases; noncommunicable diseases; health through the life-course; health systems; preparedness, surveillance and response. All delegates emphasized that WHO should increase its focus on the social, economic and environmental determinants of health. But there was a lengthy debate as to whether health determinants should be reflected as a priority that cuts across all five categories, whether it should be incorporated into one of the existing categories, or whether it should be reflected as a new category of its own. The conclusion was to not add an additional category but to amend the draft decision to request that the Secretariat show how health determinants will be given priority in the next draft of the GPW to be reviewed at this year’s Regional Committee meetings.


Member States resumed their discussion on this topic with statements made in support of the draft comprehensive plan for maternal, infant and young child nutrition, as well as on the need to improve the nutritional status of women before conception, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Swaziland presented the outcome of a drafting group which came to a compromise based on two previously submitted conference papers. The resulting draft resolution co-sponsored by Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom endorses the comprehensive implementation plan and urges Member States to put it into practice as appropriate. The Secretariat will prepare a conference paper overnight to enable a decision by the Committee tomorrow morning.

Awards ceremony

Dr Margaret Chan and World Health Assembly President Professor Thérèse N’Dri-Yoman awarded five prizes to leaders in public health.

The 2012 Ihsan Dogramaci Family Health Foundation Prize was awarded to Dr Ayse Akin from Turkey. Dr Akin has a long-standing career in the area of family health, as a professor at the Medical School of Hacettepe University, Ankara, and as the General Director of Maternal and Child Health and Family Planning in the Ministry of Health of Turkey.

The 2012 Sasakawa Health Prize was awarded to Syamsi Dhuha Foundation (Indonesia), which works to improve the quality of life of people living with lupus and poor vision.

The 2012 United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize was shared between Dr Chen Bowen (China) and the Renal Disease Control Programme (Philippines). Dr Chen is recognized for his contribution to the establishment of community health service centres and the formulation of industrial technical standards in China. The Renal Disease Control Programme implements the public health projects of the National Kidney Transplant Institute in the Philippines on the prevention and control of renal and related diseases.

The 2012 State of Kuwait Prize for Research in Health Promotion was awarded to Dr Eltahir Medani Elshibly of Sudan, who has dedicated his career to a wide range of family health issues, from breastfeeding promotion to HIV prevention and nutrition.

The 2012 Dr LEE Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health was awarded to the Pacific Leprosy Foundation (New Zealand), which works towards the elimination of and the mitigation of the effects of leprosy.

Prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases

Committee A heard a summary from the drafting group on their decision on the development of a global monitoring framework for the prevention and control of NCDs, including indicators and a set of global targets. Member States agreed to adopt a global target of a 25% reduction in premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases by 2025. WHO is further working to reach consensus on additional targets on high blood pressure, tobacco, salt/sodium and physical inactivity. Member States also expressed support to adding further targets relating to obesity, fat intake, alcohol, cholesterol and health system responses such as availability of essential medicines for NCDs.

Improving patient safety

The African Partnerships for Patient Safety is a WHO programme for building sustainable partnerships for improving patient safety in the African region. Early experiences from the programme’s implementation were presented, with a particular focus on a case study from a hospital-to-hospital partnership involving a rural Ugandan hospital.

Available tools and resources for patient safety action co-developed by partners were outlined. Perspectives on patient safety were shared by participants from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia, as well as experts working to improve patient safety in the WHO African Region.