Policy and advocacy

2015; Volume 16, No 7, July

Policy and Advocacy

Dr. Katherine Pettus, International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care Association (IAHPC) Advocacy Officer, reports:

It has been a busy few months for IAHPC advocacy, with work focused on raising awareness at the national, regional, and global levels about the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy, specifically lack of access to essential controlled medicines for pain and palliative care in many countries. We had a poster at the European Association for Palliative Care Congress in Copenhagen (IAHPC Poster Copenhagen and IAHPC Advocacy Slides for Copenhagen Poster) which garnered attention from the BMJ and a request to submit an abstract.

After Copenhagen, I went straight to Bristol in the UK to the Public Health Palliative Care Conference, where I learned about the compassionate communities movement, and palliative care advocacy in resource poor neighborhoods and countries. (See article on EAPC Blog).

After these conferences, I visited Dr. Anne Merriman in Kampala, at Hospice Africa Uganda, where her team had arranged meetings with the Ministers of Health and Narcotics Control, the Chief of National Medical Stores, the Human Rights Commission, Mildmay, the African Palliative Care Association, the Palliative Care Association of Uganda, the WHO Country Office, the Papal Nuncio, and the Catholic Medical Board. I was fortunate to be at Hospice when the Medical Officers and other clinical staff from Francophone African countries were completing their palliative care training, so had the privilege of learning about palliative care and issues of access to essential medicines in those countries (see article).

Meeting with the Ministers of Health in Uganda: pictured with Katherine are (left) Honorary State Minister of Health, General Duties of Uganda,
Dr. Chris Baryomunsi; Dr. Jacinto Amandua, Commissioner Ministry of Health, and Rose Kiwanuka, Director, Palliative Care Association of Uganda

But my main concern in Uganda was to ensure that key people in the Health and Narcotics Control Ministries know about UNGASS2016, and are aware that IAHPC can provide expert advice to the Uganda delegation during the preparatory period. Uganda is a key partner in the global campaign to improve access to controlled essential medicines, since the country will join the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 2016. Representatives at CND and at the General Assembly will be in a position to highlight the private public partnerships’ progress in making oral morphine more available for palliative care in rural areas by government subsidies, legislative support for palliative care, and programs to train nurse prescribers (see article).

‘Advocacy cake’: A delicious ‘thank you’ to Katherine presented by staff of Hospice Africa Uganda

After Kampala, I went to Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in a seminar run by the Open Society Institute East Africa (OSIEA) Foundation on Human Rights and Palliative Care. It was exciting to meet new friends and reconnect with old colleagues in East Africa working in the legal and clinical fields, and to explore the synergies that can be operationalized at the national and international levels to improve access to services. IAHPC Board Member and Director of KEHPCA, Dr. Zipporah Ali, arranged many high level meetings for us with the Ministries of Health and Narcotics Control to ensure that they are also aware of Kenya’s 2016 CND membership, and the potential for Kenya to take a leadership role at UNGASS 2016.

Just one week later, I was in Geneva for a meeting with the Special Rapporteur for Health, and was invited to an informal review of Uganda at the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Salima Namusobya, a lawyer from the Institute for Economic and Social Rights in Kampala, who had been at the Nairobi OSIEA meeting, made a statement to the Committee about palliative care being an effective way for women to secure property rights, when appropriate legal services are provided to families facing serious illness (read the Special Rapporteur’s report here). Although the report does not mention palliative care, it does say that the mandate will continue to focus on the issue of controlled medicines, and Dr. Puras has said in public that access to palliative care is a human right (see IAHPC Newsletter).

What you can do to help

Please take time to read this brief article on UNGASS and the Civil Society Task Force, and request the guidance letter. Please fill out the questionnaire/survey concerning your knowledge about UNGASS and your organization’s potential participation. It is crucial that the Civil Society Task Force is able to document global concern about lack of access to essential controlled medicines for pain and palliative care.

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