Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD, IAHPC Advocacy Officer for Palliative Care Medicines, with her latest roundup of advocacy news.
At its May meeting in Berlin, the IAHPC Board identified advocacy as a core program of the organization, along with education and research. To aid and advise me in my role as Advocacy Officer, a working committee with board members Dr. Dingle Spence, Dr. Hibah Osman, Dr. Ebtesam Ahmed, Dr. Harmala Gupta, and Dr. Nahla Gafer was formed. I cannot imagine a more splendid support team!
Chief among the strategic priorities heading into 2020 was to identify six countries to spearhead our global advocacy initiatives. The subcommittee developed a matrix of selection criteria. The country must: be a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board, have a relatively stable government which engages with civil society, and have a national champion with a history of working with IAHPC on improving access to palliative care and controlled medicines.
Although more than a few of our partner countries fit all the criteria, making selection a challenge, we selected Australia, Argentina, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Kenya, and Zambia. We hope to add a new cohort in 2021 that includes representatives of countries from Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
We are delighted to report that all our champions in the identified countries responded positively to the invitation and are looking forward to their new role as Advocacy Focal Points. They are committing to inform their government representatives about the imperative of integrating palliative care as an essential element of primary health care, under universal coverage. The goal is for representatives in national missions to speak about palliative care at United Nations (UN) meetings, and to share their progress and challenges with their peers.
Focused national palliative care advocacy by both patients and providers is essential to correct the imbalance in current public health debates, where member states usually leave palliative care out of discussions at meetings of the WHO, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and the high-level conferences at UN Headquarters. It is not enough for civil society organizations such as IAHPC to insist on its inclusion at the end of the member state debates: we are usually ignored. Member states themselves must mention palliative care during their interventions on the floor, but they won’t do it unless national associations convince them of its importance and give them informative talking points.
It is our hope that advocacy leaders in national associations will brief their delegations, providing them with relevant information for debates on primary health care, universal health coverage, communicable and non-communicable diseases, and other public health topics.
A cornerstone of our Advocacy Program will be the Internet-based course I am developing for our members. If you are not already a member, please join IAHPC or encourage your institution to join so that you can take advantage of all our resources, including the upcoming course. It will give you the necessary background to begin participating in our global advocacy work at whatever level you feel comfortable. Once the Board has viewed and tweaked the pilot, you will receive an announcement by email with a link to the finalized course.
We envision a cadre of national palliative care advocates — with our original core group of six countries expanding annually — working together in all WHO regions to raise awareness about palliative care as an essential service, and to partner with governments in implementation.
Dr. Maria Teresa García-Baquero Merino will represent IAHPC at the WHO Europe RC69 Meeting. She will collaborate with Dr. Julie Ling, who will represent WHPCA. Thanks to all of you who responded to my urgent call; we are sorry we could not fund travel costs. Please consider attending next year — the meeting is usually held the second or third week of September. You can read the IAHPC statement posted on the IAHPC and WHO Europe RC69 websites here.
Those of you in the European region please feel free to share our statement with your national associations, your health ministry, and the members of your delegations to RC69. If you need help with this, please feel free to contact me.