65th World Health Assembly Meeting Addresses Women and Children

The World Health Assembly, which took place this year from May 21-26, 2012, resulted in 21 newly adopted resolutions and three health-related decisions. The resolutions and decisions revolved around early marriage and young pregnancies, international health regulations, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), non-communicable diseases, and social determinants of health, and several other health- and disease-related topics.

Dr. Margaret Chan, who was reappointed as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the Assembly, listed several of these areas as challenges or signs of progress in sphere of public health and international development. Professor Thérèse N’Dri-Yoman, Minister of Health of Côte d’Ivoire and the elected President of the Health Assembly said “Public health should be one of the top priorities in our development projects, because without health, no development is possible.”

Many countries noted the importance of raising awareness of the consequences of young marriage and early pregnancy, but several delegates also expressed the importance of implementing laws and policies that work with community social norms and adapting policies country-by-country, rather than using a one-size-fits-all policy implementation scheme.

Ten recommendations were provided by The Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, regarding improving accountability by countries and globally on maternal and child health-related MDGs to reduce mortality and improve maternal health outcomes. The recommendations came in a report by The Commission, which focused on 75 countries which account for more than 95% of all maternal and child deaths.

Many of the 21 resolutions focused on NCDs. These included development of a global monitoring framework for prevention and control of NCDs. The goal of the framework would be to reduce by 25% premature mortality from NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, by 2025. Additionally, resolutions focused on healthy aging, building partnerships, and implementing plans for prevention of blindness and visual impairment were adopted. Sir George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), spoke to Arogya World on the impact of NCDs on women, and how NCDs are linked to maternal and child health. The interview, which was conducted by Arogya World and produced by PAHO, is divided into five video segments:

•    The Impact of NCDs on Women
•    NCDs: Maternal and Child Health
•    NCDs: What's in a Name?
•    NCDs and Sustainability
•    Perspectives on NCDs and Their Impact

Several documents related to reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) were presented to The Assembly. RMNCH-related side events also took place each day, including the Information meeting on child health UPR and WHA Review: Case Studies from India and Brazil and “Family planning, reproductive health and child survival: addressing unmet needs.”

Finally, the Global Vaccine Action Plan, a implementation strategy to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to vaccines for people in all communities, was also endorsed by Ministers of Health from 194 countries. The efforts will be lead by WHO, and a monitoring and accountability framework will be discussed at the next Assembly meeting, in 2013.

For more information, please check the websites for WHO, PMNCH, and Arogya World.

Flickr photograph via US Mission Geneva.

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