World Health Assembly

The future of public health


In May the 64th World Health Assembly, with more than 2,700 delegates, including Health Ministers and senior health officials from 192 World Health Organization (WHO) Member States, nongovernment organisations, civil society groups and other observers met to work through abroad agenda. They adopted 28 resolutions and three decisions to guide the upcoming work of the Organisation and to address priority global health issues.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization. commented: “I believe this has been an especially productive and profoundly effective Assembly. These World Health Assemblies are having a tremendous impact on the health of this world.”

After opening speeches from Dr Chan, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the policy work of the Health Assembly began with a presentation of outcomes from the independent Review Committee which reviewed WHO’s response to the influenza pandemic and the International Health Regulations. After a year of investigation, the committee agreed that the International Health Regulations helped better prepare the world to cope with public health emergencies but that the world is currently ill prepared to respond to a severe pandemic or to any other public health emergency on a similarly global and threatening scale. In addition, the Committee declared that the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 was indeed a real pandemic and found no evidence WHO was influenced by industry in its decision making.

In another agenda item aimed to improve global preparedness for future pandemics, delegates approved a framework for pandemic influenza preparedness, the culmination of four years of negotiation between WHO’s Member States. The framework will improve influenza virus sharing and access to vaccines and other benefits. Member States agreed the framework lays the groundwork for better preparedness and better access to tools and knowledge. The next phase is to ensure the implementation of the agreement.

The Organization’s budget for 2012-2013 was also discussed and adopted. The program budget of US$ 3.959 billion was recognised by the delegates as a transitional budget that will help the Organization respond to financial austerity and prepare for a series of reforms underway.

“The most important message for me was your clear consensus on the need for reform and your clear desire to see these reforms reinforce WHO’s position as the foremost authority on international health,” said Dr Chan.

Delegates and other partners engaged in a lengthy discussion on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases. NCDs pose one of the greatest challenges to health and development and contribute to more than 60% of deaths worldwide. Delegates unanimously endorsed the World Health Assembly resolution on the preparations for the United Nations General Assembly highlevel meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases being held this September.

Progress on prevention and control of NCD and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will require strong health systems and the Assembly recognised the importance of this area of work. The delegates approved five resolutions to strengthen health systems including strategies to strengthen nursing and midwifery, actions to improve the health workforce through effective implementation of the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, and efforts to improve national policy dialogue to build more robust health policies, strategies and plans. In addition two other resolutions encourage sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage of health care and services, and focus on strengthening national health emergency and disaster management capacities and resilience of health systems.

Health-related MDGs received support with resolutions and reports on immunisation strategy, infant and young child nutrition, child injury prevention, safe management of drinking water, malaria, and the presentation of the final report of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.

Member States commended WHO’s leadership and collaboration with UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other partners on the Decade of Vaccines – a vision for using the next 10 years to achieve immunisation goals and reach important milestones in vaccine research, development, financing and public support.

Maternal, infant and young child nutrition Member States also discussed the outline of an implementation plan for maternal, infant and young child nutrition. The plan, currently under development, tackles the double burden of undernutrition and overweight and focuses on the window of opportunity between conception and the second year of life. More than 100 million children under age five were underweight in 2010 and more than 170 million were stunted because of it, according to WHO figures. In addition, some 43 million children were estimated to be overweight and obese in 2010, putting them at risk of serious health conditions in future years.

Child injury prevention

The World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on child injury prevention. The resolution provides a platform to support action on preventing child injuries, which are the leading cause of death for children over the age of 5. More than 830,000 children die each year from road traffic crashes, drowning, burns, falls and poisoning. Effective interventions to prevent these injuries exist, and include enforcement of speed limits around schools, placing children in child-restraints in the back seat of a vehicle, removing or covering water hazards, installing smoke alarms, and setting up poison control centres.

The Health Assembly adopted a resolution on malaria calling on Member States to keep malaria high on the political and development agendas in order to sustain the tremendous gains made during the past decade.


The Health Assembly adopted a new, comprehensive strategy to combat HIV, The Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV/AIDS, 2011-2015, which will guide actions by WHO and countries around the world during this critical time for the future of the HIV response. At least 4.2 million new HIV infections would be averted and 2 million lives could be saved, if WHO’s existing HIV treatment recommendations were fully implemented in 2011-2015.

Occupied Palestine

The WHA adopted a resolution on health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The need for universal coverage of health services was reaffirmed while recognising that the acute shortage of financial and medical resources is jeopardizing access of the population to curative and preventive services. The Assembly requested the WHO Director- General continue to meet the health needs of Palestinian people and the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan.


The global health community sent a sign of strong commitment to polio eradication with discussion focusing on the ‘significant advances’ since the launch of a new strategic plan and new, bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine in 2010. In India and Nigeria – the source of all importations of wild poliovirus into previously polio-free countries in recent years – polio cases declined by 95% between 2009 and 2010; during the same period polio cases due to the type 3 virus declined by 92% globally.

Counterfeit drugs

The WHA also discussed the report from the working group of Member States on Substandard/ Spurious/ Falsely-Labelled/ Falsified/ Counterfeit Medical Products on improving access to quality and affordable medical products. They also approved the decision to extend the working group to resume its work and report to the next World Health Assembly.

Climate Change

Member States welcomed the priority that WHO has placed on protecting health from climate change, and reinforced their own commitment, citing new initiatives from Regional Ministerial meetings to new implementation projects.


Delegates agreed that cholera remains public health threat for many countries and the incidence is on the rise. Member States underscored the need to revitalise the Global Task Force on Cholera Control and emphasised the need to scale up advocacy measures.

Clean water

The WHA adopted a resolution to reinvigorate efforts in clean drinking water, sanitation and health. Waterborne diseases continue to kill more than two million people per year.

Waste management

Delegations acknowledged the need to better handle chemicals and waste management to protect public health. They agreed that special attention should be given to the management of pesticides and other chemicals to prevent stockpiles of unwanted chemicals accumulating and to prevent human exposure through contaminated air and water. As a follow-up to the phasing out of mercury from health care facilities, Member States requested WHO through the Libreville Declaration on Health and Environment and other global initiatives to maintain health care waste management as a priority issue on its public health agenda, to protect the environment and ensure safety of staff, waste workers and communities.

World Health Assembly 2011 Complete Documentation 

Global Health Observatory

The WHO has launched the Global Health Observatory, a new website that serves as a one-stop shop for data and analyses on health priorities around the world. The Observatory provides easy access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of health data, bringing together WHO’s data from all major health and disease programmes. It includes easy access to over 50 databases and 800 indicators with analyses of the global health situation and trends, covering priority health topics such as child, maternal and reproductive health, infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases and risk factors, environmental health, mortality and burden of diseases, road safety, health systems and equity.

Global Health Observatory

ate of upload: 15th Aug 2011


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