By Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD
IAHPC Senior Advocacy Director
October advocacy highlights featured participation with colleagues from around the world in several virtual celebrations of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2021. Our inaugural collaboration on October 7 with United Nations University’s International Institute of Global Health (UNU-IIGH) included an address by Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, and presentations by representatives of the ministries of health of Bangladesh, Thailand, and Kenya. (Kenya’s brand new Palliative Care Policy 2021-2030 was presented by Dr. Mary Nyangasi, head of the country’s National Cancer Control Program.) The global dialogue included Dr. Emmanuel Luyirika, Dr. M.R. Rajagopal, and leaders of the national palliative care associations of the three invited countries. The live video and recording have had almost 300 online views, mostly from Malaysia, India, Philippines, Pakistan, and Ghana. Stay tuned for our report about the meeting and next steps.
IAHPC was also invited to address the EAPC pre-congress session on expanding access to quality palliative care worldwide, organized by the World Health Organization. The session featured the release of two important WHO products focusing on palliative care indicators and quality services. WHO’s full range of guidance, tools, and resources on palliative care can be found on the WHO website here. Dr. María Adelaida Córdoba, president of the Colombian Palliative Care Association (ASOCUPAC) and one of three IAHPC Focal Points in Colombia, discussed Colombia’s progress in implementing WHA 67/19’s “palliative care resolution” in a panel chaired by Dr. Stephen Connor and myself. Other panelists included Dr. Lameck Tambo, Malawi; Dr. Ernesto Jaramillo (WHO); Helena Davies, UK (a person living with palliative care needs); and Elaine Kim, Ministry of Health Ageing Planning Office, Singapore.
I represented IAHPC at two other events: the 2nd Memorial Sloan Kettering Annual Celebration, titled “A Virtual Coming Together,” organized by our US Advocacy Focal Point Dr. Billy Rosa; and the Sri Guru Ram Das College of Health Sciences conference in Amritsar, India, organized by IAHPC member Dr. Harjot Singh Birgi. Although I was very sorry not to be able to attend these events in person, it was a great honor to be invited to share our advocacy work.
As part of the ongoing campaign to increase the visibility of the work we do at IAHPC and to attract the support we need to continue it, I gave a presentation to the Microsoft Gives! Campaign, a corporate responsibility program that matches employee donations of funds, labor, or services to a charity of their choice. If you or a family member is a Microsoft employee, please get your donation matched. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, as our work is funded solely by donations, grants, and membership fees. IAHPC will be participating in Giving Tuesday this year, with a focus on advocacy, so stay tuned for our emails and social media posts leading up to this November 30 event.
Other October activities included supporting Dr. Odette Spruijt and Ms. Rachel Coghlan, our Advocacy Focal Points for Australia, as we prepared to represent IAHPC at the 72nd Regional Committee meeting of the Western Pacific division of the World Health Organization at the end of the month. Among other things, regional WHO meetings discuss how World Health Assembly initiatives apply in a local context. For more information on this, see Module One of the new IAHPC Advocacy Course. Dr. Spruijt, with other colleagues from the Western Pacific region, has founded the Western Pacific Palliative Care Advocacy Network, or WPPCAN, whose goal is to improve access to essential medicines and services in the many diverse countries of the region.
Preparing for meetings such as this begin by reviewing the agenda to see which items are relevant to palliative care. After analyzing the documents, we prepared two IAHPC statements for member states, one very short, the other a bit more detailed. We than drafted a template letter for palliative care associations in Western Pacific member states to send to their government representatives. Dr. Spruijt reported that, “Two key agenda items were regional responses and updates regarding the impact of COVID-19 on member states in the region, and a multi-day discussion on primary health care (PHC). While all interventions on PHC emphasized the importance of developing new sustainable models of health care, only one country (Australia) included palliative care in their description of the scope of PHC. In a video presentation from Japan, end-of-life care of people in their own homes was presented in a very sensitive and dignified way. Otherwise, palliative care was strikingly absent from the week’s discussions, even when discussing mortality associated with COVID-19. It seems to still be the elephant in the room.” Dr. Spruijt’s summary of the meeting can be found here.
To get involved with WPPCAN, contact Dr. Spruijt.
To learn more about how to become a more effective advocate for palliative care, sign up for our 2021-2022 Advocacy Course, which is free for IAHPC members. Module 1, on the global advocacy framework and institutional landscape, is now available. Module 2, to be released in mid-November, will unpack the challenges of advocating for essential palliative care medicines in the international drug control system, where a lot of work remains to be done!
To learn more about the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) and the Colombian Palliative Care Association (ASOCUPAC) visit the IAHPC Global Directory of Palliative Care Institutions and Organizations.