4 June 2019
World Health Assembly Adopts Resolutions on Universal Health Coverage
Photo by IISD/ENB
story highlights

A World Health Assembly resolution on the UNGA high-level meeting on UHC calls on Member States to accelerate progress towards UHC with a focus on poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups and individuals.

Governments also agreed on the ‘Global Strategy on health, environment and climate change,’ a plan of action on climate change and health in SIDS, and a Global Action Plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants.

28 May 2019: Governments gathered at the World Health Assembly (WHA) agreed on four resolutions related to universal health care (UHC), addressing primary healthcare, the role of community health workers, emergency care systems and the UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-Level Meeting on UHC. The Assembly also agreed on a global strategy on health, environment and climate change, as well as a global action plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants. Other Resolutions addressed antimicrobial resistance, WASH and NCDs.

The 72nd WHA brought together delegates from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 194 Member States. The Assembly convened from 20-28 May 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.

On primary health care, the Resolution underscores the role of strong primary health care in ensuring countries can provide the full range of health services necessary throughout a person’s life. The Resolution urges Member States to implement the Declaration of Astana on primary health care. The Resolution calls on the WHO Secretariat to increase its support to Member States on primary health care, and to finalize its ‘Primary Health Care Operational Framework’ in time for the 2020 World Health Assembly (WHA 73).

On community health workers, the Resolution recognizes their role in promoting healthier populations, responding to health emergencies and achieving UHC. The Resolution urges countries and partners to optimize community health worker programmes and to allocate adequate resources to such programmes, using the WHO’s guideline on health policy and system support. Also on the guideline, the Resolution requests the WHO to collect and evaluate data, monitor implementation of the guideline and support Member States in implementing the guideline.

On emergency care systems, Member States recognized emergency care systems as critical to UHC and saving lives, reducing costs and increasing impact. Member States agreed to strengthen countries’ emergency care, and support better and faster services for time-sensitive health conditions, stressing the importance of timeliness as an essential component of quality care.

On the UNGA high-level meeting, the Resolution conveys governments’ support for preparations for the meeting in September 2019. The meeting is expected to call for government involvement in coordinating work across all sectors to achieve UHC. The WHA Resolution calls on Member States to accelerate progress towards UHC with a focus on poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups and individuals. The text cites as key priorities: increasing health financing, strengthening health workforces, building sustainable and resilient people-centered health systems, and investing in and strengthening primary health care.

The WHA also adopted a Resolution on antimicrobial resistance. It calls for continued high-level commitments to implement and finance multi-sectoral national action plans, and it urges Member States to strengthen infection prevention and control measures, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), ensure prudent use of quality antimicrobials, support multi-sectoral, annual, self-assessment surveys, and enhance participation in the Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System. The Resolution outlines a number of actions for the WHO to support countries in implementing national action plans and maintaining the WHO list of ‘Critically Important Antimicrobials for human medicine.’

Also on WASH, Member States agreed on a Resolution to improve WASH services in health facilities around the world. The Resolution recognizes improved WASH services as critical for reducing maternal and newborn deaths, preventing the spread of infections and achieving UHC.

On non-communicable diseases (NCDs), Member States agreed on a decision to accelerate and scale up action on NCDs and to meet global targets to reduce the number of people drying from NCDs like cancer, diabetes and heart and lung diseases. The Resolution asks Member States to develop national roadmaps, establish and implement standards and invest in systems to support sustainable WASH services.

The ‘Global Strategy on health, environment and climate change: the transformation needed to improve lives and well-being sustainably through healthy environments’ provides a vision for responding to environmental health risks and challenges until 2030. Member States agreed on a plan of action on climate change and health in small island developing States (SIDS) that focuses on four strategic areas of action: empowerment, such as supporting SIDS’ health leadership; evidence; implementation; and resources, including facilitating access to climate and health finance.

The five-year Global Action Plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants focuses on achieving UHC and the highest attainable standard of health for refugees, migrants and host populations. The Global Action Plan calls for strengthening health monitoring and information systems, implementing short and long-term steps to mainstream refugee and migrant health care, and counter misperceptions about migrants and refugee health. Member States request the WHO Director-General to report on progress at the 74th WHA and for Member States and UN agencies to provide information on a voluntary basis to the 74th and 76th WHA.

The Assembly requested the WHO Director-General to broaden engagement with Member States, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other relevant organizations and stakeholders to provide information on implementation of access and benefit-sharing (ABS) measures, potential public health outcomes, and information on current pathogen-sharing practices and arrangements. Member States made the request following a review of the WHO report on the public health implications of implementing the CBD’s Nagoya Protocol.

The Assembly agreed on a number of other resolutions and decisions, including on access to medicines, classification of diseases and patient safety. [WHO Press Release on UHC Resolutions] [WHO Press Release on Antimicrobial Resolution] [WHO Press Release on NCDs and Global Strategy] [WHO Press Release on WASH] [WHO Press Release on Global Action Plan] [WHO Press Release on Nagoya Protocol] [WHA Website]

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