May 30, 2014 |

Four key global health wins from the World Health Assembly

Want to know what got us excited at this year's World Health Assembly? Here are four messages that have us anticipating a better future for mothers and children.
Young mother with a baby swaddled on her back.
The health of mothers and their young children took center stage at last week’s World Health Assembly. Photo: PATH/Deborah Atherly.

The global health community is buzzing about the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA), which took place in Geneva last week. The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) and is composed of health ministers from 194 member countries. Here are four messages we heard loud and clear at this year’s WHA:

“Health has an obligatory place on any post-2015 development agenda.” —Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO

Over the past year, policymakers have heatedly debated which development goals to put in place after the Millennium Development Goals reach their 2015 target date. At the assembly, delegates approved a resolution that prioritizes several health topics for inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda. They include newborn health, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, neglected tropical diseases, and completion of the existing Millennium Development Goals that address HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria; child health; and maternal health.

“The vast majority of newborn deaths are preventable…I mean preventable with relatively simple and relatively inexpensive interventions. Preventable with systems and technology we have now in almost every country.” Melinda Gates, cofounder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The first-ever action plan for newborn health, the Every Newborn Action Plan, was endorsed by all 194 WHA member countries, a first step toward implementation of key strategic actions to improve the health of newborns around the world. Representatives of more than 100 countries stood up to speak on the plan, and the discussion concluded with an official WHA endorsement of the plan.

Watch our video for one way to save lives at birth using an existing solution.

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the Government of Canada will contribute $36 million over seven years to the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa program…” Rona Ambrose, health minister of Canada

At an event cohosted by the Missions of Canada and Cameroon and supported by PATH, Canada announced a commitment of $36 million to help improve the lives of women, newborns, and children in sub-Saharan Africa. The $36 million will be dedicated to innovation research for maternal and newborn health programs in nine countries, with a focus on optimizing delivery of existing interventions.

“The number of new cancer cases has reached an all-time high and is projected to continue to rise…No country anywhere, no matter how rich, can treat its way out of the cancer crisis. A much greater commitment to prevention is needed.” —Dr. Margaret Chan

Cardiovascular disease, cancers, respiratory diseases, and diabetes account for 80 percent of the 36 million people who die from noncommunicable diseases  every year. Noting the rising burden of noncommunicable diseases in every region of the world, the WHA approved nine key indicators that will help measure progress toward the Global Action Plan for Noncommunicable Diseases.

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  • Heather Ignatius is a senior advocacy and policy officer with the Advocacy and Public Policy Program at PATH.