The sixty-third World Health Assembly is coming to a close later today. Some of the key issues raised at this year’s meeting included progress towards the Millenium Development Goals, counterfeit medicines, prevention of non-communicable diseases and the Global Strategy on public health, innovation and intellectual property. The following is a brief overview from these discussions.
Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)
Experts from WHO, member countries and the Global Fund provided a progress update on the health-related MDGs and highlighted key challenges remaining.
Noting the impact of the financial crisis on health, participants emphasized the importance of sustaining investments in health.
Speakers highlighted the need for better coordination of funding mechanisms, global financing aligning with local priorities and national health plans, and mutual accountability for both the donors and the receiving governments.
Participants called for renewed action to achieve the health-MDGs.
Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
NCDs cause 60% of all deaths worldwide, with 80% occurring in low and middle-income countries.
Noncommunicable diseases – mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – kill nearly 35 million people per year. Almost 90% of fatalities before the age of 60 occur in developing countries and are largely preventable.
Highlighted the changing health profiles of countries and the need to focus attention on the emerging priority of NCDs and their burden on the population and health care spending.
The proliferation of potentially lethal or harmful counterfeit medicines has been on the rise, particularly with the increased usage of the Internet worldwide.
WHO will not drop use of the term ‘counterfeit’ to describe fake medicines despite generic producing nations complaints about possible confusion over the term.
“With substandard medicines, drug regulatory authorities know who to go to when a quality problem is discovered,” said Hans Hogerzeil, the director of the WHO programme on Medicines Policy and Standards. “But with counterfeit, false or fake medicines the identity of the producer is not known, and they easily cross national borders, so normal regulatory approaches cannot be used.”
“Every honest industry is interested in stopping this,” said Hogerzeil, as is every government because counterfeiting harms both patients and the legitimacy of the health system.”
Public health, innovation and intellectual property
Delegates discussed a global strategy and plans of action for public health, innovation and intellectual property. The debate focused on financing issues, including the rational use of funds, and conducting research through regional networks.
The item will be taken up for discussion later in the week.
Global eradication of measles
Approximately 20 delegates took the floor and endorsed targets set for 2015 as milestones towards the eventual global eradication of measles.
Success in achieving the measles 2015 targets is essential if the MDG 4 – reduce child mortality – is to be reached.
Many countries noted that diseases can be caused by unsafe food, that national food production systems are susceptible food safety problems and that more food is traded across borders then ever before.
WHO was encouraged to continue working directly with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to strengthen public health, support economic development, and continue joint risk assessments through WHO/FAO expert bodies, and establish standards through the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission.
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