Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD, IAHPC Advocacy Officer for Palliative Care Medicines, with her latest roundup of advocacy news.
July was a laid-back month for advocacy, as much of the UN system seems to be in summer vacation mode. There were a couple of firsts though: in what is sure to become a new trend in this era of climate emergency and escalating travel costs, I participated in a virtual World Health Organization (WHO) regional meeting with IAHPC members from the Asia-Pacific. This format is definitely a convenient and cost-effective way for key constituencies to communicate over long distances, but lacks the warmth and inspiration generated in roundtable meetings, such as the Chatham House briefing on Palliative Care and Universal Health Coverage I attended later that month. That was my first Chatham House briefing, and since I grew up in London, I always enjoy visiting. Shout out to IAHPC’s Genevieve Napier, for back office support!
As a ‘non-state actor in official relations’ with the WHO, IAHPC is invited to most of the WHO global and regional meetings. We try to encourage our membership to participate in preparing for and attending these meetings whenever possible. When we were notified that WHO’s Manila-based Western Pacific Region would host an online Partners Forum 1-3 July 2019 to collaborate on ideas for delivering better health in the region, which consists of 37 countries, we notified all our members in those countries and then had a pre-meeting briefing for those who wished to join.
Our online, informal, palliative care delegation comprised colleagues from Palliative Care Australia and Hospis Malaysia who logged onto the Workplace platform whenever their schedules permitted. Since the original White Paper produced for the meeting lacked any reference to palliative care, despite having an entire section on older persons and non-communicable diseases, our primary objective was to raise the issue, and familiarize other participants with services provided in the region. We succeeded, in that the Summary Report acknowledged that: ‘Many people felt strongly that palliative care needs to be articulated in the White Paper, and recognized this as an issue to be addressed particularly at the primary health care level.’ It also highlighted a submission by Palliative Care Australia’s Kate-Reed Cox, directing participants to the website of End of Life Directions for Aged Care in Australia.
Palliative Care Australia’s National Clinical Advisor, Kate Reed, participated in the WPR forum to further the palliative care agenda in the Pacific region. As a strong advocate for increasing equitable access to palliative care services and medicines, she shared the work done by PCA to build service capacity through its National Palliative Care Standards and position statement on maintaining access to opioids for patients with palliative care needs by making them ‘future-proof.’ PCA is becoming more active in the international space by working with the IAHPC; it is holding its inaugural international conference in Perth next month with the theme Universal Access: Oceans of Opportunities, focusing on palliative care in Oceania.
Kate commented that she found the WPR forum to be a great and innovative way in which partners were able to collaborate with each other to inform the strategic direction of the WHO in the Pacific region while providing equality in participation and, therefore, a voice for all. According to Dr. Ednin Hamzah, CEO of Hospis Malaysia, the forum ‘provided an opportunity for civil society and others to engage WHO on a range of issues. It was very encouraging that many spoke up for the need to include palliative care not only in the White Paper on NCDs and ageing, but also in other fora.’
The Chatham House briefing Closing the Global Access Gap in Palliative Care and Pain Relief: A Top Priority in Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues from all over the world working to improve palliative care services and access to medicines. Although the famous ‘Chatham House rule’ prevents me from disclosing who said what at the meeting, a report will be available in the near future and will be shared on our website and through social media.
In the meantime, please read my blog, which also describes why the September High-Level meeting on UHC — that immediately precedes the 74th UN General Assembly — could be a turning point for global palliative care development. The theme is: ‘Moving together to build a healthier world,’ and the consensus Political Declaration to be approved in September now contains two refences to mentions palliative care as an essential service! IAHPC and our partners are standing by to help providers and national associations take this forward.
I am using the ‘down time’ of the summer to develop the IAHPC advocacy course and priorities, which will be pilot tested by the Board and available to our membership in the fall (the exact date is not yet certain). The course will consist of an introductory and advanced section for those who wish to participate more actively and be supported with a pilot project. We will be developing a corps of regional and national advocacy ‘fellows’ to lead this effort. Please consider taking the course if you wish to advance the development of palliative care in your country.
If you are not an IAHPC member yet, or need to renew your membership, please join or renew now, as the course will only be open to members. It’s yet another great reason to join IAHPC, your global platform for all things palliative!