WHA comes to an end with resolutions to improve universal health care

Members endorse improved access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services in health facilities around the world

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2019
Photo: WHO/Facebook

The 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) has come to end. During the nine-day meeting, being held at Geneva, the member states came to a number of resolutions related to the broad theme of universal health care.  

Among the most important were the resolutions on access to medicines. The WHA adopted a resolution on improving the transparency of markets for medicines, vaccines and other health products in an effort to expand access.

With this, there would more transparency on actual prices paid by governments and other buyers for these products. This would help countries make more informed decisions when purchasing health products and negotiating affordable prices; and improve access to health products for the population. 

“This is a step forward towards price transparency and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a firm mandate to support member states achieve this as the next step. What is required is transparency in research and development costs,” said KM Gopakumar of Third World Network, a non-profit international research and advocacy organization.

Access to drugs would support other resolutions taken at the meeting to increase patient safety. The group endorsed the establishment of an annual World Patient Safety Day on September 17 in light of the fact that an estimated 134 million adverse events occur annually due to unsafe care in hospitals in low- and middle-income countries.

The members also resolved to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services in health facilities around the world. At present, one in four healthcare facilities do not have basic water services, and one in five has no sanitation services. This puts the life of the patients at risk as they are exposed to infections in the hospital.

The resolution on judicious use of antibiotics also helps protect people from infections. In light of the fears of an influenza pandemic, the delegates requested WHO to work with the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System and other partners to improve influenza virus sharing, and to prepare a report with member states and stakeholders on influenza virus sharing and public health in the context of legislation and regulatory measures, including those implementing the Nagoya Protocol.

“The resolution on AMR is important but it should have also addressed conflicts of interest and called for stronger pharmaceutical industry regulations. According to a global study, vast majority of pharmaceutical companies still link sales bonuses to increased sale of antibiotics. This increases, often unnecessary, antibiotic use and drives antibiotic resistance,” said Dušan Jasovský, AMR/regulatory pharmacist (access campaign) at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The member states also agreed on a global strategy on health, environment and climate change which shows how the world needs to respond to environmental health risks and challenges until 2030.

“We must all resolve to translate our work this week into policies and programmes that deliver results,” said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The next big discussion on universal health coverage is scheduled at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

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