World Health Assembly 2012

21-26 MAY 2012 | GENEVA

WHO final press release

65th World Health Assembly closes with new global health measures

26 MAY 2012 | GENEVA - The Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly concluded Saturday after adopting 21 resolutions and three decisions on a broad range of health issues. The six days of discussions involved nearly 3000 delegates, including health ministers and senior health officials from amongst the 194 WHO Member States, as well as representatives from civil society and other stakeholders.The agenda covered some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing public health today.

“As challenges, let me mention noncommunicable diseases and ageing, maternal and child health, under- and over- nutrition, the eradication of polio and health demands during humanitarian emergencies,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “As opportunities, let me mention immunization, and the decade of vaccines, and the new multisectoral strategies made possible when we take a social determinants approach.” The Health Assembly opened with delegates noting the tremendous achievements in health in recent decades and the emergence of global solidarity around health. Multiple Member States supported the concept of universal health coverage.

Reappointment of Dr Margaret Chan

At the World Health Assembly, Dr Margaret Chan was appointed for a second five-year term as Director-General of WHO with 98% of the Member States’ votes. Dr Chan's new term will begin on 1 July 2012 and continue until 30 June 2017. In her acceptance speech, Dr Chan pledged her continued commitment to improve the health of the most vulnerable. In addition, she said that the biggest challenge over the next five years will be to lead WHO in ways that will help maintain the unprecedented momentum for better health that marked the start of this century.

Highlights of the decisions regarding reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health

Early marriages and young pregnancies

More than 30% of girls in developing countries are married before the age of 18, and 14% before the age of 15. Many delegates requested that WHO continues raising awareness of the problem of early marriage and adolescent pregnancy and its consequences for young women and their infants.

Several Member States noted the importance of implementing laws and policies and strengthening sexuality education. Some countries said that “one size does not fit all” and that family and community social norms must be considered. The Secretariat confirmed that it will work with Regional Offices to adapt the guidelines to public health realities country-by-country.

Millennium Development Goals

Member States endorsed the report on the progress and achievements of the health-related Millennium Development Goals and health goals after 2015. While the pace of progress has accelerated in many Member States, it was also acknowledged that more still needs to be done in the remaining three years to achieve the goals.

A second report on The Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, established at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General’s in the context of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, presented 10 recommendations to improve accountability in countries and globally. The focus is on the 75 countries which together account for more than 95% of all maternal and child deaths in the world. Many countries and global partners have made specific commitments to accelerate action towards the achievement of MDG 4 (reduce child mortality) and 5 (improve maternal health).

Noncommunicable diseases

The Health Assembly adopted several resolutions and decisions on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs):

  • Delegates approved 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.
  • Another resolution focuses on strengthening NCD policies to promote active ageing. The resolution urges Member States to encourage the active participation of older people in society, increase healthy ageing and promote the highest standard of health and well-being for older persons by addressing their needs.
  • The building of partnerships at national and global levels are essential components of multisectoral action against NCDs. Member States discussed ways to prevent NCDs through action involving other sectors than health to prevent premature deaths and to reduce exposure to risk factors for NCDs, mainly tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity.
  • Delegates also received a report on the progress of the implementation of the global action plan for the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment.
  • Member States acknowledged the need for a comprehensive, coordinated response to addressing mental disorders from health and social sectors at the country level. The delegates recognized this includes approaches such as programmes to reduce stigma and discrimination, reintegration of patients into workplace and society, support for care
Social determinants of health

The Health Assembly endorsed the Rio Political Declaration and its recommendations. It approved measures to support the five priority actions recommended in the declaration to address social determinants of health. The measures will lead to, among other things, greater collaboration between UN and partner agencies and more support for Member States to adopt an inclusive ‘health-for-all’ approach.

Progress reports

The delegates also received progress reports in six areas: strengthening of health systems; disease eradication, prevention and control; reproductive health; food safety initiatives; climate change and health; partnerships and multilingualism.

The World Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland and is the decision-making body of the WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General in election years, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.

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