WHA 2018 Highlights – Dr Tedros On Universal Health Coverage Momentum; Azar Says World “Woefully Underprepared” For Epidemics

Below are a few highlights of key developments taking place during this week’s World Health Assembly (WHA). The head of the World Health Organization speaks on the nexus of primary health care and universal health coverage, and US Health Secretary Alex Azar told an industry side event that the world is still unprepared to battle another pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu.

WHO’s Dr. Tedros on primary health care-universal health coverage nexus

Dr Tedros

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus (Dr Tedros) told delegates attending a packed technical briefing on primary health care as a key to achieving universal health coverage, that:

*We are now witnessing unprecedented political momentum for universal health coverage.

*The adoption of universal health coverage as a target in the Sustainable Development Goals gives us a global mandate.

*And the foundation of universal health coverage is strong health systems built on people-centered primary care, which is the most equitable and efficient way to deliver essential health services

But he also pointed out that:

* in some countries, only 1 in 3 people have the risks of their treatment explained tot hem. One in 5 people has at least one unnecessary test. And up to 40% of health spending is wasted due to inefficiency.

*Unless an integrated and people-centered approach is adopted, health care will become increasingly fragmented, of poor quality, inefficient and unsustainable


US Health Secretary Azar: Global community “still woefully unprepared” to combat major infectious disease epidemics

Alex Azar

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told participants at a side event on “Health Security, 100 years after the Spanish flu pandemic,” co-hosted by the World Medical Association (WMA), the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), that the world is still unprepared to fight major infectious disease epidemics.

* The world was “ill-prepared” for the 1918 influenza which infected nearly one-third of the world’s population and killed upwards of 50 million people

* But influenza remains the top pandemic and health security threat to the world. As a global community, “we are still woefully unprepared” to combat major infectious disease epidemics. The ongoing Ebola, Lasa, MERS-CoV, Cholera and influenza outbreaks serve as stark reminders that infectious diseases are unrelenting and do not respect national borders

* With some diseases particularly influenza we know that a major international epidemic or pandemic is not a question of if but when

* We strongly believe that comprehensive global health security requires international partnerships across all sectors, including international organizations, non-government entities, and the private sector

* Global health security will require, diligence, focus, and commitment from all of us. The United States is a ready, eager and committed partner in tackling this challenge and  advancing the world’s capacity to health threats


Image Credits: John Zarocostas.

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