Message from the Chair and Executive Director

2020; Volume 21, No 6, June

Message from the Chair and Executive Director

Dear Readers,

This month there have been many events happening throughout the world, and the USA in particular. We join the voices of those who peacefully protest against discrimination which leads to racial disparities in access to many things, including health care. In Maya Angelou’s words, “Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible” and any kind of prejudice should be eliminated, and discrimination prevented. We sincerely hope that the reason for peaceful protests does not get buried and forgotten under the noise made by those who are looting and generating chaos, and in turn, undermining the strength of the protesters’ message; and that peace, solidarity, and care — which are also the core of palliative care — prevail among all persons of the world, regardless of their skin color, gender, age, or other differences. Our differences make us stronger, and IAHPC is much richer and better because of the diversity of the people we represent, work with, and collaborate with from around the globe.

WHA Assembly: May is always the month when the World Health Assembly (WHA) convenes in Geneva, and for the first time in its history, the WHA was held virtually to present and vote, among other things, on the resolution “COVID-19 Response.” The rest of the items in the agenda were postponed for the fall (a date is not yet determined). Never in the history of the WHA have so many prime ministers and heads of state addressed the Assembly, making the 73rd WHA remarkably interesting.

The COVID-19 Response Resolution was unanimously approved, committing governments to deliver palliative care services alongside safe testing and treatment. The inclusion of palliative care in this policy document marks a great achievement in the palliative care field and is the fruit of strong advocacy and collaboration with governments and national palliative care leaders. We are grateful to the IAHPC members who joined our WHA delegation. Please read Dr. Katherine Pettus’ Policy and Advocacy column for more information about the Resolution and the WHA and how you can get involved.

In other good news, the World Health Organization just published an updated Clinical Management of COVID-19 - interim guidance, which includes a palliative care component.

As a result of these important developments, on May 28 we sent a survey to our membership to help us understand: 1) how COVID-19 has impacted their work and their lives, 2) which successful coping strategies they have identified and implemented that might help colleagues around the world, and 3) how the IAHPC can support them in the light of the recently adopted WHA Resolution and the updated WHO Clinical guidance. If you are a member and have not completed the survey, please remember to do so. A reminder email will be sent before the end of the month. We will use the information gathered to support your efforts.

Global Palliative Care and Covid-19 Series: In collaboration with the global palliative care organizations — the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), the Palliative Care in Humanitarian Aid Situations and Emergencies network (PalCHASE), and the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) — we are continuing the Global Palliative Care and Covid-19 series, consisting of briefing notes and webinars. The briefing notes are available here and the webinars are stored in the WHPCA website here. (See the News section for the topics and dates of upcoming seminars.)

In April, together with Drs. Felicia Knaul (IAHPC board member), Cornelis de Joncheere, and Afsan Bhadelia, we published a commentary called “The key role of palliative care in response to the COVID-19 tsunami of suffering.” In this commentary we suggest immediate and long-term strategies to extend palliative care during and after the pandemic. Immediate strategies include: 1) Optimizing cooperation and coordination of all actors, 2) Preserving the continuity of care, 3) Enhancing of social support, and 4) Assessing emerging needs. Long-term strategies include: 1) Expanding palliative care education in health curricula, as well as training of clergy; and 2) Establishing standard and resource-stratified palliative care guidelines and protocols for different stages of a pandemic. As the pandemic continues to spread and especially in Latin America, we hope that governments take the necessary steps to ensure that palliative care is included in the response.

We also hope that our colleagues and friends are keeping safe as they provide essential palliative care services to patients and families. We commit to redoubling our efforts to advocate for the integration of palliative care services around the world.

We recognize that the pandemic is challenging health care systems and institutions in all affected countries, and salute health care workers everywhere. As in our May Newsletter, and on behalf of our board of directors, we extend our gratitude to all those who are on the front line, working to improve the well-being of thousands of patients, sometimes even at the cost of their own lives.

Until next month,

Lukas Radbruch, MD

Liliana De Lima, MHA
Executive Director

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