World Health Organization

  • All
  • WHA Statement
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.

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.

The Blended Financing Road to UHC Must Go Through the Community

This blog post was written by Katey Linskey of Last Mile Health, co-written by Living Goods. Living Goods empower people to improve the health of their families, friends and communities. They are a 2018 Global Health Council member.

The 71st World Health Assembly (WHA) was Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus’ first as the Director General of the World Health Organization. As expected, expectations were high, and the conversation around the World Health Organization’s (WHO) main theme—Universal Health Coverage (UHC)—was serious and solution-driven. Though there were meaningful discussions on achieving, financing, and optimizing UHC, questions on how to effectively finance UHC lingered. The discussion of financing UHC is a difficult one—it requires diverse thinking, nuanced planning, and blended visions. In an attempt to tackle this, the Center for Global Health and Diplomacy, Johnson and Johnson, Last Mile Health, and Living Goods joined forces to bring a group of amazing leaders who are tackling the difficult discussion around getting to UHC with a particular focus on community health.

The event opened with remarks from the Honorable Wilhelmina Jallah, the Liberian Minister of Health, who acknowledged the importance of national community health worker systems, a sentiment echoed by others including the Honorable Minister of Rwanda Dr. Diane Gashumba and Honorable Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng of Uganda. In Liberia, the National Community Health Assistant Program has now scaled to over 70 percent of the country. Minister Jallah made it clear that this progress was made possible by partnerships, including hard work from the Ministry of Health; donor alignment among the US Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF, and the World Bank; and concentrated technical assistance by nongovernmental organizations, such as Last Mile Health, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and the International Rescue Committee. Building off strong partnership with governments across the continent, Dr. Angela Gichaga, CEO of the Financing Alliance for Health, highlighted her organization’s success in supporting countries to build costed investment plans for their national community health workers programs. Dr. Gichaga also stressed that using this costing method to build financial roadmaps could lead to increased investment and aligned funding to the programs.

Innovative programs like the Financing Alliance for Health do not operate in a silo, but rather leverage the major donors in the space. As Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID Bureau of Global Health Dr. Alma Crumm-Golden noted, USAID has worked with community health workers (CHWs) for 45 years and the agency remains committed to supporting governments in growing national community health programs. As a paediatrician, Dr. Crumm-Golden has seen the difference CHWs can make in ensuring access to Integrated Community Case Management services, a strategy utilizing community health workers to identify and treat common childhood illnesses, and extending primary healthcare services to children in remote “last mile” areas.

We know the national community health plans will not work without a financing plan. Mariam Claeson of the Global Financing Facility at the World Bank shared how they are supporting countries in developing investment cases that prioritize reproductive, maternal, child, and adolescent health services. These investment cases help the private sector support the government plans by providing clear investment priorities that are aligned to national strategies.  Joanne Manrique, President of the Center for Global Health and Diplomacy (GHD) who has been leading the efforts to work with investment firms over the past six years to address health and development challenges across the globe introduced Mr. Gerhard Pries, CEO and Managing Partner, Sarona Asset Management who spoke about the role blended financing can play in developing sustainable interventions. In addition, he addressed the lingering misconceptions and prejudices between the different sectors. He also spoke of the eagerness of the private equity firms to work with governments in providing financing solutions to address global health challenges. The evening closed with Dr. John Nkengasong of the African Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), who had just returned from the DRC where he was working on containing the current Ebola outbreak. He acknowledged the various CHW programs across the continent that have not only been utilized to respond to crises like Ebola in West and Central Africa but also in providing day-to-day primary healthcare services that build and strengthen resilient health systems at the community level.

If we are to truly “make the last mile the first mile”, the global community needs to leverage the momentum from events like these at the World Health Assembly and drive true partnership for change. We recommend the following:

1) Governments must be empowered and supported by donors and NGO partners with donor funding cycles aligned to national strategies and timelines and tailored technical assistance to develop, implement, and manage national community health programs.
2) National community health programs must have cost investment cases and financing roadmaps to ensure sustainability.
3) The private sector and major donors must have access to data to strengthen government relationships necessary to prioritize community health programs.

The Center for Global Health and Diplomacy, Johnson and Johnson, Last Mile Health, and Living Goods extend their thanks to all the speakers and attendees of “The Role of Blended Financing in Providing Sustainable Solutions for Community Health Programs” and look forward to moving from conversation to action in order to ensure that every community has access to the quality care they deserve.

#CivilSocietySpeaks Up at WHA71
This blog post was written by Elizabeth Kohlway, Senior Manager, External Affairs & Operations, Global Health Council

CALL TO ACTION

“I urge you to go with a renewed determination to work every day for the health of your people. Don’t accept the status quo. Don’t believe that some problems can never be resolved. Choose to believe instead that it’s within your power to make real, lasting change”
—Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director general of the World Health Organization, in his closing speech to the Seventy-first World Health Assembly (WHA71)

And That’s a Wrap! 
.

Diversity in DelegationGlobal Health Council (GHC) made a splash at WHA71 this year (May 21 – 26) with a robust delegation of nearly 100 members. Our delegates came from more than 18 countries and represented female and youth leaders in the field. Throughout the week, they shared their collective work with WHO and national governments from around the world. <Check out this infographic>
.
.
.
.
.
.
Civil Society Speaks UpThe GHC delegation submitted 15 statements to the WHA, most of which were read on the committee room floors. Agenda items addressed by our delegation include: WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work, access to medicines, comprehensive mental health, polio transition, and more. <Read the statements>
.
.
.
.
.
High-profile Speakers & ParticipantsOur 4 public partner events(shout-out to all of our wonderful co-hosts!) welcomed Dr. Tedros Adhanom, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, HHS Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir, Uganda’s Minister of Health Jane Aceng, Patient Advocate Kwanele Asante, and South African Singer and Songwriter Yvonne Chaka Chaka, among other esteemed guests.<Read/view a recap of our events below>
.
.
.
.
On Twitter: Thank you for amplifying our collective voice during WHA71! GHC earned on average 21.2 K impressions per day during the week (more than 2.5X our normal daily average!). Moreover, our delegation hashtag, #CivilSocietySpeaks, generated approximately 1.9 million impressions. <Share our Twitter moment #CivilSocietySpeaks Up at #WHA71>

.

.

.

Our Partner Side-Events

Getting Local with Global Health Security: A Pathway Towards Sustainable Action

Watch the event recording: www.tinyurl.com/GettingLocalGHSLive
Post-event Blogs/Articles:
1) “Local Participation is the Key to Success in Global Health Security” by Ashley Arabasadi, Policy Advisor at Management Sciences for Health
2)“‘Two Sides of the Same Coin’: Can a Health Systems Lens Inform Health Security Efforts?” by Taylor Williamson, Manager, Health Systems at RTI International
3) “Global Health Security: Take Action to ‘Close the Gaps‘” by Jo Anne Bennett, GHC WHA Delegate
4) “The Local Path to Global Health Security” by Brian Simpson, Editor-in-Chief at Global Health NOW.

Taking Civil Society Engagement to New Heights to Advance WHO’s 13thGeneral Programme of Work and Achieve the Triple Billion Targets
1) The emerging recommendations of the WHO-CSO Task Team have been published online and are open for feedback. We encourage you to share this link with your networks and to submit your own feedback by Friday, June 8.
2) Post-event Blogs/Articles: A New Era of Partnership at WHO” by Kate Dodson, Vice President, Global Health Strategy at the United Nations Foundation and Loyce Pace, President and Executive Director at Global Health Council 

From the Ground Up: NCDs, TB, and Resilient Health Systems
Post-event Blogs/Articles: Tuberculosis and NCDs Jostle for Space in the Global Health Agenda” by Vince Chadwick, Correspondent at Devex

 Diverse Pathways and Partnerships to Universal Health Coverage
Watch the event recording: www.tinyurl.com/DiversePathwaystoUHCLive
Post-event Blogs/Articles:
1) “You Can’t Have Universal Health Coverage Without the Community” by Rita Bulusu, Deputy Director, Community Health Strengthening Team at Living Goods
2) “Universal Health Coverage: ‘More Than Just An Aspiration’ by Jo Anne Bennett, GHC WHA Delegate
3) “Alex Azars’ Excellent UHC Adventure” by Brian Simpson, Editor-in-Chief at Global Health NOW

And More!

1) “The GPW: Making the Impossible Work of the World Health Organization Possible“: GHC WHA delegate Elizabeth Montgomery Collins elaborates on how the 13th General Programme of Work (GPW 13) for 2019–2023 was received and promoted during WHA71.

2) “The 71st World Health Assembly: A New Vibe in Global Health“: Ambassador John E. Lange, Senior Fellow for Global Health Diplomacy at the United Nations Foundation suggests there was a new vibe to WHA this year.

3) “Long Story Short #16: Inside the World Health Assembly“: GHC President and Executive Director Loyce Pace sits down with Devex reporters to discuss hot topics at WHA71, including civil society’s new role, the journey toward universal health coverage, and Ebola response.

4) “Kwanele Asante: ‘It’s Our Lives That Are At Stake’“: Patient advocate and GHC delegate Kwanele Asante shares how to be an NCD champion at WHA71 with Global Health Now. Watch the interview.

5) Women in Global Health’s Blog shares takeaways from their WHA71 activities, which aimed to advance the dialogue on gender equality and women’s leadership in global health.

THANK YOU!
We could not have had such a robust presence at WHA71 without your support.
Help us amplify the voice of the global health community today:
www.globalhealth.org/amplify

 

Global Health Security: Take Action to ‘Close the Gaps’

This event summary on GHC’s WHA71 side event, Getting Local with Global Health Security: A Path Toward Sustainable Action, was written by GHC member and WHA delegate Jo Anne Bennett. 

Speakers at this opening-day session characterized the key to health security in terms of addressing health systems’ endemic problems: absent or insufficient frontline health workers, inefficient supply chains, and poor data systems. In other words, the foundation for preventing epidemics is a well-functioning health system ‘on the ground’ in communities.

A point repeatedly made was the need to get past identifying system weaknesses and take action to ‘close the gaps.’ A common theme was prioritization, specifically the challenge of prioritizing in the context of competing priorities and prioritizing according to available means. Rwanda’s health minister framed this challenge as stepwise moving toward Universal Health Coverage: focusing in communities ‘because that’s where problems are and that’s where solutions must be.’ Community action plans start with a large list of priorities that becomes shorter as actions are taken.

Former CDC Director Tom Frieden addresses a packed room for a WHA71 side event on global health security.

Tom Frieden, President and Chief Executive Officer of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), explained how countries participating in the Global Health Security Agenda can use Joint External Evaluations (JEEs) to help clarify priorities related to core capacities. The few JEEs conducted thus far provide a good news/bad news story: The good news is that progress is possible: countries have improved along some criteria that have not been fully achieved. The bad news is that for some criteria no countries have progressed and some countries show no progress on any criteria. Frieden said the disappointing results called for analysis and action.

Keynote speaker Peter Sands, Executive Director of The Global Fund, took up the call for analysis of the underlying weaknesses. Smart investing, he said, rests on the “right analysis,” i.e., analysis that turns knowledge about gaps to costed action plans.  He provided the business case for investing in prevention rather than preparing for response. Using MERS and Zika as examples, he described how the staggering local and worldwide economic impacts of even relatively small epidemics reach far beyond the affected region(s).  Smart investing looks at activities that can achieve dual outcomes, not just emergency preparedness.  He pointed to the Global Fund as an example of recognizing the links across programmatic silos. Similarly, basic public health activities can be leveraged to strengthen core health security capacity.

Chief Executive Officer at Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) Catharina Boehme’s remarks lent further support to prioritizing prevention over response: the reality is that there is no quick scale-up for diagnostics and no diagnostics are available for six of the nine diseases prioritized by WHO.

Dr. Rüdiger Krech, Director of the Department of Ethics and Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), reflected on the importance of country ownership and political will.  National leadership provides the system-wide view to ensure that all parts of the whole are being addressed. The JEEs simply expose weaknesses.  Everyone needs to understand the implications of just one case.