This past month The 71st World Health Assembly took place in Geneva, Switzerland.
The WHA is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board and by representatives of NGOs in formal relationships with WHO. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed program budget.
Dr. Katherine Pettus, IAHPC Advocacy Officer, attended the WHA along with colleagues from other NGOs. The IAHPC delegation was huge!! It comprised students from the University of California in San Francisco, Professor Felicia Knaul from the University of Miami, Dr. Frank Manase from Tanzania, and Dr. Natalia Arias from the University of Navarra in Spain. We were honored to be represented by such an amazing and enthusiastic group. Dr. Pettus was there to lead the group as well as help and guide everyone. Her column this month includes some amazing reflections, a summary of the outcomes and discussions, as well as the steps ahead.
Thanks to their advocacy and interventions, there were many mentions of palliative care from Member States.
Also in May, IAHPC cosponsored a workshop on the availability and rational use of opioids in Colombia. The workshop, in Bogotá, was held in collaboration with the Universidad de La Sabana, Fondo Nacional de Estupefacientes (FNE) of the Ministry of Health, and the Observatorio Colombiano de Cuidados Paliativos at the Universidad del Bosque. The workshop was coordinated by Dr. Marta Leon, a palliative care specialist and professor in the school of medicine at the Universidad de La Sabana.
Initial presentations included those from Dr. Andres Lopez Velasco, director of the FNE, Dr. Stefano Berterame, Chief of estimates at the International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna (via Skype), Dr. Marta Leon, and Liliana.
The FNE invited the representatives of the competent authorities in each of the states (departamentos).
During the workshop the participants worked in groups from different regions of the country to assess the challenges and problems patients with severe pain face in accessing treatment with strong opioids, such as morphine. Each group discussed and summarized its findings and proposed solutions. The coordinators are now reviewing and summarizing all the recommendations and will present these to the Ministry of Health as well as to civil society organizations.
This reflects the increasing importance and relevance of advocacy that IAHPC is placing on its daily work — the programs and projects we work on. We agree that education and improving clinical skills to become better and qualified palliative care workers and professionals is important. But unless we work together to help governments, United Nations bodies, and other multilateral organizations to change policies so that palliative care is included in budgets, plans, and programs, our ability to improve the quality of the life of patients and their families will be limited to only those patients we work with. We need to expand our efforts so that palliative care becomes a global movement, not only in voice and care but also reflected in frameworks, conventions, and policies. We hope that you will join us in these efforts!
Until next month,
Lukas Radbruch, MD
Chair, Board of Directors
Liliana De Lima, MHA