Annual UN policy session adopts decisions on major global health priorities

24 May 2011

The United Nations health agency today wrapped up its annual policy session by adopting a set of decisions to guide its future work, including a plan for pandemic influenza preparedness as well as a new, comprehensive strategy to combat HIV.

“I believe this has been an especially productive and profoundly effective Assembly,” Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said at the conclusion of the 64th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The meeting, which began on 16 May, brought together more than 2,700 delegates, including health ministers and senior health officials from 192 WHO member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups and other observers.

The eight-day session concluded with the adoption of 28 resolutions and 3 decisions on a range of issues, including the agency’s budget and reform agenda, pandemics, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), child injury prevention and maternal health.

The culmination of four years of negotiations between WHO’s members, delegates approved a framework for pandemic influenza preparedness that will improve information sharing and access to vaccines.

“Member States agreed the framework lays the groundwork for better preparedness and better access to tools and knowledge,” the agency stated in a news release. “The next phase is to ensure the implementation of the agreement.”

Under the new Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV/AIDS 2011-2015, WHO aims to promote greater innovation in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care services so that countries can achieve the goal of universal access to services.

WHO noted that at least 4.2 million new HIV infections would be averted and 2 million lives could be saved if the agency’s existing HIV treatment recommendations are fully implemented between 2011 and 2015.

With more than 830,000 children dying each year from road accidents, drowning, burns, falls and poisoning, the Assembly adopted a resolution providing a platform to support action on preventing child injuries, which are the leading cause of death for children over the age of five.

Delegates also adopted a nearly $4 billion budget for 2012-2013 for WHO, and discussed the proposed reforms for the agency.

“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.

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