What To Watch At The Executive Board: Emergencies, Universal Health Coverage & Eliminating Cervical Cancer

This week’s Executive Board meeting features a heavy agenda of topics, including a review of progress in WHO’s flagship Universal Health Coverage (UHC) initiative; steps taken to confront the burgeoning coronavirus health emergency; and review of a first-ever WHO strategy to eliminate cervical cancer. Debates over the long-term challenges posed by drug resistant pathogens and access to medicines among the world’s poorest populations are also on the docket. Here is a rundown of the key items on the agenda, and what to watch:

Universal health coverage, with a focus on non-communicable disease prevention and management, is high on the priority list following the high-level political declaration on UHC signed at the United Nations General Assembly in October 2019.

Dr Tedros giving the “Report of the Director-General” at the 146th Meeting of the WHO EB

The EB is to review a progress reports on the implementation of the political declaration and provided guidance on a menu of policy options and interventions to promote mental health and well-being, reduce premature deaths from air-pollution related NCDs, and reduce the harmful use of alcohol. The EB will also be weighing on draft proposals for the first ever WHO strategy on cervical cancer elimination and an action plan for a “Decade of Healthy Aging.”

As the world teeters on the edge of a global epidemic due to a novel coronavirus that emerged late last year from Wuhan, China, the EB is also set to review work on public health preparedness and response. Influenza preparedness, polio eradication, and cholera control are main items up for discussion on the health emergencies agenda, but observers say the agenda may change with ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, which was just declared a “public health emergency of international concern” last week.

The EB will also recommend that a draft strategy for tuberculosis research and innovation be endorsed by the WHA in May, and will be providing guidance on the next iteration of a global strategies for immunization and combatting neglected tropical diseases.

Lastly, the EB will be debating access to medicines – focusing on the thorny issues surrounding innovation and intellectual property. Specifically, the EB will provide further comments on a global action plan for 2020 – 2022, which will be finalized for endorsement by the WHA. In related items, the EB will review a proposed workplan for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol – an international agreement that provides guidance on sharing of genetic information – and approve the first ever strategy on digital health for 2020-2024.

The EB will also comment on the final methods of measuring outputs of 13th General Program of Work, and assess existing collaborations and a list of applications under the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors.

Appointment of Regional Directors For Europe and Africa

Dr Tedros welcoming Kluge into his new role as WHO Regional Director for Europe.

In actions taken on Monday, the EB opening day, Dr Hans Kluge was appointed as the new WHO Regional Director for Europe today, following former Regional Director Zsuzsanna Jakab’s promotion to Deputy-Director General of the WHO. Kluge, who previously directed the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at the WHO European Regional Office, explained that his platform would focus on “applying the best data and evidence, demanding increasing investment in health, strengthening health systems around people’s needs, and extending inclusive and non-discriminatory access to health care to all” in a WHO press release.

“Every child, every woman and every man in our beautiful and diverse Region has the right to health. I am committed to delivering united action for better health,” Kluge vowed.

Dr Tedros congratulates Matshidiso Moeti on her re-election as WHO Regional Director for Africa.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti was re-elected to a second term as the WHO Regional Director for Africa. Moeti’s platform will focus on “accelerating action” towards universal health coverage to increase access to healthcare “without financial hardship.”

Serving since 2015, Moeti said that she was “greatly honored” by WHO’s decision to reappoint her “as Africa increasingly faces the double burden of disease.”

Moeti added, “Thank you for the trust you have shown…The next five years in public health will be crucial in laying a strong foundation to reverse this burden.”

Image Credits: Twitter: @WHO, Twitter: @WHO.

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