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World Health Organization: Building a Healthier Future for Tomorrow

This post originally appeared on the Better World Campaign website, and was written by Kelli Meyer. The Better World Campaign (BWC) works to foster a strong, effective relationship between the United States and the United Nations to promote core American interests and build a more secure, prosperous, and healthy world. They are a 2018 Global Health Council member.

The United Nations system is comprised of the UN, which is headquartered in New York, and more than 30 affiliated organizations—known as programs, funds, and specialized agencies—with their own membership, leadership, and budget processes.In our “Meet the (UN) Family” series, we’re taking a look at the UN entities that might not always make the headlines but play an integral part of the UN’s mission to promote global peace and prosperity.

Up next: the World Health Organization.

As the global guardian of public health, the primary goal of the World Health Organization (WHO) is to build a better, healthier future for people all over the world. But don’t let the word “World” in the name fool you—WHO makes an enormous impact in the U.S., too.

So what is it that WHO does that is so important to Americans? Let us explain.

WHO helps orchestrate international collaboration and develop solutions to confront global health risks, which help to protect and advance U.S. interests at home and abroad.

For example, after the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, a partnership was formed under the Global Health Security Agenda with participation from governments in the region, WHO and other UN agencies, plus the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other U.S. agencies.

This innovative partnership played a key role in stopping an outbreak of the disease from reaching the same devastation in 2016. It also helped rebuild fragile health systems decimated by Ebola, and spearheaded vaccination campaigns to protect kids who missed out on basic vaccines during these Ebola outbreaks. And with the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), WHO is on the frontlines of the response, facilitating the delivery of the new Ebola vaccine.

While this work might seem (literally) thousands of miles away from our shores, it protects Americans because it strengthens a country’s ability to stop to disease threats at their source, before they can spread regionally and globally. This in turn saves lives abroad, protects U.S. troops stationed far from home, and promotes economic and political stability in those areas.

WHO’s leadership has also driven forward global partnerships that impact our lives closer to home. The organization is a founding member of the Measles &Rubella Initiative (M&RI), which is helping protect Americans from a highly infectious disease that still causes outbreaks here in the U.S. Globally between 2000 and 2016, M&RI has driven an 84% reduction in measles deaths, saving 20.4 million lives.

WHO is also a founding member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), founded in 1988. At its peak in the 1950s, polio caused over 15,000 cases of paralysis in the United States alone. Since 1988, GPEI and WHO have reduced global polio cases by 99.9%, from 350,000 cases to just 22 in 2017. These investments in polio eradication have in turn strengthened country health systems to better identify and respond to other disease threats before they become global risks.

Another area where WHO’s expertise comes into play is addressing environmental and public health issues, such as air quality, water and sanitation. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works with WHO to support reductions in air pollution generated in developing countries, which has the potential to travel across borders. Collaborations such as these means that U.S. agencies like the EPA can rely on the extensive networks and technical expertise of WHO to safeguard the health and security of Americans at home and abroad.

As we said earlier, don’t let the word “World” fool you; WHO works to make sure all people of all ages, no matter where they were born, can live healthy lives. Their work keeps us safe, healthy and protected from health threats here at home, and equips our public health officials with the tools, resources and partnerships they need to solve issues on U.S. soil.

To learn more about WHO, click here.

President’s Update to Member CEOs

Last month marked yet another annual World Health Assembly (WHA), a convening of government representatives, civil society advocates, and other stakeholders around the global health agenda. As always, Global Health Council was there in full force, hosting nearly 100 delegates from 18 countries for critical meetings and engaging side events with policymakers. A number of our members were featured in panel conversations and media coverage, including patient and provider, champions from the field. All told, it was a solid showing for our community.

I was struck by how many new faces and organizations were joining WHA for the first time and think it signals a couple of things. First, that people across the global health community realize an increasing value of participating in various global dialogues, including WHA, with health ministers, international partners, and fellow advocates. But I think it also demonstrates support for a new vision and leadership at WHO, one that invites and embraces meaningful collaboration across sectors in pursuit of a bold global health agenda and “triple billion” targets. It’s encouraging to see more global health actors actively seeking out these opportunities and that being well-received by multilateral entities and policymakers, especially at a time when ongoing government commitments and resources are being called into question.

We have a chance to replicate this type of energy at upcoming high-level meetings on non-communicable diseases and TB in New York this fall as well as other forums such as G7 or G20 summits and additional multilateral events next year. More than background observers and bystanders in the galleries of these important meetings, advocates are increasingly becoming key players in critical policy discussions focused on the future of global health. It is ever-more important that we consider not only how the public sector or donors will address global health challenges, but what we all should be doing collectively – NGOs, donors, corporations, and policymakers – to reach our end goal. This isn’t a new idea but its execution is, as evidenced by the taskforce charged with assessing WHO’s engagement with civil society across its work. In reality, this is a welcome shift that’s been a long time coming and still has some ways to go before “outsiders” are fully-integrated into meetings across global health priorities. However, we can celebrate advocates having an elevated voice and role.

And we, as advocates, have a job to keep showing up to these forums in meaningful, visible ways to promote or protect such platforms. Let’s not only see ourselves as external actors defending a cause but also embrace our role as internal influencers driving an agenda. Let’s also keep passing the mic to other champions who don’t often have a seat at the table: those affected by or working on the frontlines of issues we’re trying to address through our work. Ultimately, we want the presence and voice of advocates like us to be the norm across global policy forums and enhance the conversations and commitments made to advance lifesaving initiatives around the world.





Loyce Pace, President and Executive Director, Global Health Council


Global Health Roundup ~ 06/25/2018

Slow and Steady: Report Shows Countries are Catching up on Malaria Elimination
recent update on the E-2020 Initiative of 21 Malaria-Eliminating Countries shows steady progress is being made to eliminate one of the biggest public health threats of all time – malaria. In 2017, the world snapped into attention when WHO reported that malaria progress had stalled despite it being a treatable disease. Since then, the E-2020 initiative, which aims to make 21 carefully-selected countries malaria-free by 2020, has come into sharper focus. Last week, the initiative celebrated when Paraguay became the first country in the Americas to be granted “malaria-free” status in 45 years. The update highlights other countries, such as China and El Salvador, who are also making leaps in the elimination agenda. However, PATH’s Malaria Vaccine Initiative recently released a new report that points to a shortage of $100 million in annual investments in malaria research and development, which could delay the supply of life-saving products to communities in need.

New Survey Collection Guidance Released to Understand What Women Want
The recent 71st World Health Assembly (WHA71) proved to be an effective platform to elevate White Ribbon Alliance’s “What Women Want” campaign, which aims to hear directly from at least 1 million women and girls worldwide about how they define quality maternal and reproductive healthcare. The campaign, which has the support of global champions such as Dr. Michelle Bachelet, Chair of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (PMNCH) Board, acknowledges that better healthcare responds to the expressed needs of women and girls. In order to reach a larger audience and to streamline responses, the Alliance recently simplified their survey collection guidance, adding a new social media/photo option to make it easier for respondents to write their one “ask” (request or demand) when it comes to receiving quality reproductive and maternal health services. Access the full instructions and materials. In addition, White Ribbon Alliance is looking to identify key social media influencers at the upcoming International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam. To share your nomination, please feel free to email the What Women Want team.

Join the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism (GCM) on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
NCDs cause 70 percent of all deaths globally—three-quarters of them in low- and middle-income countries—and are among the leading causes of preventable illness and disability. The WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs (GCM/NCDs) is a body of WHO Member States, United Nations organizations, and non-state actors including non-governmental organizations, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations, and academic institutions committed to supporting countries to reduce premature mortality and unnecessary suffering from NCDs. The Mechanism aims to enhance the coordination of activities, multi-stakeholder engagement, and action across sectors in order to contribute to the implementation of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013–2020. On June 21, pre-registration for organizational participation in the GCM/NCD opened and will remain open for a month.


1) June 11: The Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) announced a call for submissions for abstracts and symposium tracks for the CUGH 2019 conference. Submission deadline is August 25, 2018.

2) June 18: WHO released the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a product that shapes health statistics by using unique codes for diseases. This new electronic and user-friendly version was improved based on critical feedback from frontline health workers.

3) June 20: The Center for Strategic and International Studies announced that WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will deliver a video message at their upcoming July 10 event in Washington, DC, which highlights the U.S. role in global polio eradication. Register to join the event.

4) June 20: As of last week, further spread of the Ebola virus disease seems to be under control in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, the Ministry of Health and WHO continue to monitor the outbreak under high alert conditions. View recent updates and a new report from scientific experts on investigational therapeutics used in the outbreak.

Advocacy Update ~ June 25, 2018

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy and Advocacy and Melissa Chacko, Policy Associate.

FY 2019 Bills Marked Up, Senate Rejects Rescissions, Green Testifies, and Reorganization 
It was busy on Capitol Hill last week with the release of the State and Foreign Operations bills in both the House and the Senate, a vote on the rescission package, and testimony from Administrator Green. On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House released its reorganization plan for federal agencies.

Senate and House Committees Release SFOPs Bills
Both the Senate and House State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) Appropriations subcommittees marked up and approved their respective bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. With committee action completed, the bills can be brought to the floor for a vote. The House could do this in the coming weeks, packaging the SFOPs bill as part of a “minibus” – several appropriations bills packaged together. The Senate is unlikely to bring the bill to a vote. Download the Funding chart.

Markup of the Labor and Health and Human Services appropriations bills is expected this week in both the House and Senate.

Highlights of the House SFOPs bill

The House provided flat funding for global health at $8.8 billion, and $54 billion for the entire bill. Of note were increased for Maternal and Child Health ($845 million compared to $829.5 million in FY 2018); nutrition ($145 million compared to $125 million in FY 2018); and tuberculosis ($302 million compared to $261 million in FY 2018). These increases appear to have come at the expense of the family planning account, which was decreased from $607.5 million in FY 2018 to $461 million.

During the full committee mark up several members offered amendments related to family planning, including an amendment offered by Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) to remove the cap on bilateral funding for family planning; an amendment by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) to repeal the Mexico City Policy; and one offered by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) to restore funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

Highlights of the Senate SFOPs bill

The Senate provided approximately about a $100 million increase to global health ($8.8 billion compared to $8.69 billion in FY 2018) and $54.4 billion (an increase of $400 million from FY 2018 levels) for the entire bill. Increases to global health accounts include: family planning ($632.6 million compared to $607.5 million); nutrition (up $10 million to $135 million); vulnerable children (up $2 million to $25 million); tuberculosis (up $14 million to $275 million); neglected tropical diseases (up $6 million to $106 million); and PEPFAR (up $50 million to $4.37 billion). In addition, Water account was increased to $435 million compared to $400 million in FY 2018.

The increase to family planning was part of an amendment by Senator Jeanne Sheheen (D-NH) to provide no less than $632 million for this account, including $37.5 million for the UNFPA. The amendment also strips the legislative language on the Mexico City Policy and replaces it with provisions of the Global HER Act (S.210)

Senate Rejects Rescissions Package
The Senate failed to discharge from committee and bring to the floor H.R. 3, a $15 billion rescission package based on recommendations the White House had sent to Congress in May. The 48-50 vote was along party lines, but Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Susan Collins (R-MN) joined the Democrats in voting no.

If you are a constituent of Senators Burr or Collins, we encourage you to call their offices to express appreciation for their no votes on this rescission package.

USAID Administrator Testifies on USAID Resources and Redesign
USAID Administrator Mark Green testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on USAID Resources and Redesign. The hearing focused on a range of policy issues from the crises in Venezuela and Yemen, to initiatives such as Power Africa and the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act. Relevant to global health, Administrator Green touched upon global health supply chains in his opening statement and stated that USAID continues to monitor the performance of supply chain contracts to ensure that implementers are meeting the requirements.

Members of the committee continue to speak out against the President’s FY 2019 budget, which includes an almost 30% cut to foreign assistance. Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) stated in his opening remarks that, “Congress decides funding levels despite this request, so the request is not relevant to what we [Congress] are doing.”

White House Releases Reorganization Plan
The day after Administrator Green testified on Capitol Hill, the White House released its long-awaited reorganization plan in which it aims to improve the “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” of every federal agency. Many of the proposals that would affect the State Department and USAID were rolled out earlier and are being pursued under USAID’s Transformation Initiative. The Global Health Bureau remains intact, but creates new bureaus for Resilience and Food Security; Development, Democracy, and Innovation; and Conflict Prevention and Stabilization. A new Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance would include the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace.

The proposal also establishes a new development finance institution by strengthening OPIC and consolidating it with USAID’s Development Credit Authority. A similar proposal is included in the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, which was introduced by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Congressmen Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA).

Read more on USAID’s Transformation Plan.

The End of Cervical Cancer

This guest post was written by Vivien Tsuan Associate Director in the Reproductive Health Program at PATH. It was originally posted on PATH’s website on May 21. For 40 years, PATH has been a pioneer in translating bold ideas into breakthrough health solutions, with a focus on child survival, maternal and reproductive health, and infectious diseases. PATH is a 2018 Global Health Council member.

Aisha Nanyombi was among the very first girls in Africa to receive an HPV vaccine. There is now increased urgency to expand screening and prevention programs to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide. Photo: PATH/Will Boase.

When we started working on cervical cancer prevention at PATH 25 years ago, most people were sceptical that much could be done. It was clear that Pap smears (a test to check for cellular abnormalities) were not feasible in low-resource settings where most cases of cervical cancer occur. Even 10 years ago—when new screening and pre-cancer treatment options were becoming available—no one was using the “e” word with cervical cancer. We simply weren’t convinced elimination was possible. But that’s all changing now.

Eliminating a disease means that the number of cases has fallen so low that the malady is no longer considered a public health problem. Elimination is different from eradication; in the latter case, the human papillomavirus or HPV—the bug that causes cervical cancer—would no longer exist in the population. We still don’t believe that HPV can be eradicated, but with the tools now at our disposal—HPV vaccination and screening and treatment of cervical precancer—PATH and our partners feel confident that we can dramatically reduce levels of disease to achieve new elimination targets.

A global tragedy

Cervical cancer kills an estimated 285,000 women each year, mainly in low-resource countries. It is an awful disease—very painful and drawn-out—with an offensive odour that drives women to remove themselves from their compounds and villages to avoid causing discomfort to their friends and families. If they do seek treatment, it is usually too late to benefit much and the expenses may drive the family further into poverty. They suffer, and eventually pass away, often secluded and stigmatized. Every two minutes a woman dies from the disease.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Over 270 million doses of HPV vaccine have been administered, mostly to young adolescent girls, and it works so well—even better, in fact, than we had anticipated—that they can expect to be nearly free of the threat of disease as adults. HPV vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective for use in adolescents. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of girls who need the vaccine, and boys who would also benefit from vaccination because of the other cancers caused by HPV, have been immunized so far.

The vaccine is less effective when given to women once they become sexually active, and are likely to have already been infected with HPV. For those women, screening, and pre-cancer treatment when necessary is crucial. The good news is that we have reliable tools for that as well, including exciting new options for women to collect their own sample for testing for HPV infection.

A new era with a new goal

This week, Dr. Tedros—the Director General of WHO—threw down the gauntlet asking all nations to join in bringing an end to cervical cancer during the World Health Assembly in Geneva. This is the latest in a series of moves the UN has made to mobilize against the scourge—the first being in 2016 when then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for elimination. Last year, leaders of major health organizations and professional societies added their voices to the call for an end to cervical cancer. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) began the process of officially defining what would constitute “elimination,” and PATH was invited along with other technical experts to contribute to the process. For example, in order to certify a country free of cervical cancer, it is necessary to set a threshold like “fewer than X cases per 100,000 population per year.” This already has been done for malaria, newborn tetanus, and other diseases.

Because we have the tools we need to end cervical cancer, it is clear that the barriers to elimination are primarily economic and political—a deficit of will to allocate the funds needed to achieve this important goal. So advocacy aimed at urging Health Ministers, Parliaments and other decision-makers to focus on the issue at the national level is the next big hurdle. Countries also need technical assistance in designing appropriate and affordable national programs to ensure that all girls, and boys if possible, are vaccinated and that all women have access to screening programs.

Allowing the current situation to continue—with hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths occurring each year—violates universal ethical and social values. Furthermore, it does not make economic sense because losing women in the productive prime of their lives cripples families, communities and nations (see an analysis of the investment case). With this new focus on elimination, countries can join with PATH, the WHO and other global partners to advance the fight against cervical cancer, a victory that we think is achievable with concerted action in the next decade or two.