Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD, IAHPC Advocacy Officer for Palliative Care Medicines, with her latest roundup of advocacy news.
IAHPC fielded a six-person delegation at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, our largest ever. The delegates came and went at different times, as schedules permitted, with the biggest challenge being the concurrent scheduling of the European Association for Palliative Care Research Congress in Bern.
Our delegation consisted of Dr. Felicia Knaul, Director of University of Miami’s Institute of the Americas and chair of the Lancet Commission on Palliative Care; Dr. Natalia Arias Casais, a Colombian physician and PhD candidate working with the Atlantes Project in Pamplona; Dr. Frank Manase of the Community Center for Preventive Medicine in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and three graduate students from the UCLA Global Health program.
We focused on several relevant agenda items, technical briefings, and side events that concern palliative care, including: the General Program of Work (GPW), Shortage of Medicines and Vaccines, Alma Ata at 40 (Primary Health Care), Universal Health Coverage, Women’s Children’s and Adolescent Health, Public Health Dimensions of the World Drug Problem, Health of Refugees and Migrants, and Tuberculosis.
The text of uploaded drafts of the IAHPC Interventions on some of these issues can be found on our Advocacy page. I worked with delegation members to personalize the message of the interventions they delivered, meaning we were often revising and polishing at the last moment.
Dr. Knaul and I met with Dr. Peter A. Singer, a primary architect of the GPW and supporter of the palliative care language and new palliative care indicator (increase availability of oral morphine in palliative care facilities from 25% to 50%), President Viroj Sumyai of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), and Drs. Soumya Swaminathan and Marie Charlotte of the WHO’s Universal Health Coverage and Systems Division. Dr. Knaul discussed the Lancet Commission Implementation project, to unroll a series of regional webinars before World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on October 18, 2018. We will also be working on some high-level side events at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs with the INCB, and discussed developing the Serious Health-Related Suffering Indicator as a way to help countries improve rational consumption of morphine and other internationally controlled essential medicines for the relief of pain and palliative care. Stay tuned for further news on this!
The UCLA Global Health student delegates were asked to reflect on their experiences at the 71st World Health Assembly.
Jennifer Parratt wrote, ‘I’m so honored to have been able to represent IAHPC at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva... I was able to witness the powerful force of nations coming together to envision a world in which Universal Health Care is available for all.
‘Most importantly, I was able to advocate for the inclusion of palliative care as a key component of Universal Health Care, and had the proud thrill of witnessing two of my classmates deliver interventions in Committee A. This work built on a personal passion I have for palliative care, following the untimely death of a dear friend in 2015. I left WHA71 inspired, energized, and eager to find ways to continue advocating for palliative care, while continuing to learn about and contribute to the development of global health policy. Specifically, in my work as a program developer and fundraiser for a large federally qualified health center in Southern California, I plan to advocate for adding a palliative care program to our clinic offerings.’
Nicholas Bloom wrote, ‘As I witnessed throughout the week, Universal Health Coverage is at the forefront of the agenda for many of the member states and NGOs for the upcoming year. From committee meetings to side events that I attended this past week, I expected to hear more about palliative care integration into the primary care frameworks.
‘I feel honored to have been a part of the IAHPC, delivering intervention statements and asking crucial questions, stressing the significant role palliative care plays in ensuring quality of life in patients, families, and communities. I enjoyed spreading the word about the important work that IAHPC does for these vulnerable populations through networking with other NGOs and increasing the organization’s social media presence.’
Pam Secada wrote, ‘Having the opportunity to work with the IAHPC at the 71st World Health Assembly was an amazing experience. One important concern was the lack of palliative care and access to controlled meds for patients and families experiencing extreme suffering. As a leader in advancing universal palliative care for all, IAHPC plays an important role in this movement.
‘This was not simply a professional/educational experience for me but also a personal one. Having a family member suffer from cancer-related pain, I was passionate and had firsthand experience of what the patients and families we were advocating for were experiencing. I plan to continue this advocacy not only at a macro level but also at a micro level, specifically with my family and community.’
Frank Manase wrote, ‘Being a delegate gave me a sense that there is hope that our effort to make palliative care real will yield fruits in Tanzania and, in general, Africa in the near future. Presenting a statement significantly enhanced our voice in promoting palliative care to the Government of Tanzania. I received very strong positive feedback from Tanzanian delegates that our agenda has moved higher up in the government’s priorities.
‘I learned that there are so many people and associations globally doing other than palliative care but have items that support the palliative care agenda indirectly. For instance, the International Association for Anesthetists agenda had a lot of similarities to the agenda we presented.’
And, last but not least, Natalia Arias Casais wrote, ‘My experience as a delegate was fantastic! I had the chance to learn how a WHO event works and how decisions are taken. Also relevant was learning how to write and deliver statements as interventions to draw attention to our advocacy agenda. I had the chance to attend meetings and learn how the global health agenda is shaped and issues are discussed. I really enjoyed being part of this international and multi-stakeholder event!’