26 May 2018: The 71st World Health Assembly resulted in a five-year strategic plan to advance all health-related targets under the SDGs, especially under SDG 3 on good health and wellbeing. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus anticipated that the agency will increase its focus on public health, emphasize country-level impacts, and improve people’s access to health-related knowledge and information.

The Assembly marked the WHO’s 70th anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the International Conference on Primary Health Care. Delegates gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, from 21-26 May 2018, and discussed a wide range of health issues relevant to various SDGs, including sexual and reproductive health (SDG target 3.7), maternal and child nutrition (targets 2.2 and 2.1), early childhood development (target 4.2) and the Global Vaccine Action Plan (targets 3.8 and 3.b).

The five-year strategic plan adopted at the meeting sets three targets to be achieved by 2023: extending universal health coverage to one billion more people; ensuring better protection from health emergencies for one billion more people; and promoting better health and wellbeing for one billion more people. Taken together, this ambition is referred to as the “triple billion” target.

The Assembly noted that current efforts to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are not on track to achieve SDG 3.4, and called on heads of state and government to take part in the Third UN General Assembly (UNGA) High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs, which will convene in New York, US, on 27 September 2018. The Assembly urged cholera-affected countries to implement a roadmap to reducing cholera deaths by 90% by 2030. The Assembly also requested that the WHO develop a five-year roadmap to improve access to medicines and vaccines (SDG 3.8 and 3.b), and to present this at the 2019 session (WHA 72).

The Assembly also agreed to: scale up nutrition policies and programmes for infants and young children; ensure containment of poliovirus materials in secure facilities to prevent accidental release; develop a global strategy for developing and making greater use of digital technologies in healthcare; improve snakebite prevention and health worker training; promote physical activity to prevent and mitigate NCDs; improve access to assistive technology for persons with disabilities; and launch a coordinated global response to rheumatic heart disease.

The World Health Assembly is the WHO’s high-level decision-making body, and holds yearly meetings that involve representatives from all UN Member States. [WHO press release on strategic plan] [WHO update, 23 May] [WHO update, 24 May] [WHO update, 25 May] [WHO update, 26 May]