The World Health Assembly concludes reaching agreement on strengthening surgical care, polio and International Health Regulations

27 May 2015 – GENEVA – The World Health Assembly concluded yesterday, with apparent health workforce implications in several “landmark resolutions” decisions and discussions – on the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, surgical care, polio eradication; epilepsy, implementation of the International Health Regulations among the few. Delegates at the Assembly also made a series of decisions stemming from the 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak, which give the WHO Secretariat the go-ahead to carry out structural reforms so it can prepare for and respond rapidly, flexibly and effectively to emergencies and disease outbreaks.

WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel

Delegates of the Assembly took note of the on the Relevance and Effectiveness of the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, which concluded that the Code remains relevant to the health workforce development challenges faced by Member States, especially in the context of growing regional and inter-regional labour mobility. Member States were encouraged to strengthen institutional capacity and resources in order to complete the second round of national reporting by July 31, 2015. Delegates also supported the recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group.

Surgical care

Delegates agreed a resolution on strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia. This resolution will help countries adopt and implement policies which will integrate safe, quality and cost effective surgical care into the health system as a whole. It highlights the importance of both expanding access and improving the quality and safety of services; strengthening the surgical workforce; improving data collection, monitoring and evaluation; ensuring access to safe anaesthetics; and fostering global collaboration and partnerships. The resolution also underscores the need to raise awareness of the issue and build political commitment

Strengthening care for epilepsy

Delegates endorsed a resolution urging Member States to strengthen their ongoing efforts in providing care for people with epilepsy. The resolution highlights the need for governments to formulate, strengthen and implement national policies and legislation to promote and protect the rights of people with epilepsy. It also stresses the need to reinforce health information and surveillance systems to get a clearer picture of the burden of disease and to measure progress in improving access to care.
Delegates emphasized the importance of training of non-specialist health-care providers as key to reducing the epilepsy treatment gap. In low- and middle-income settings, strategies to improve access and affordability of antiepileptic medicines should be a priority. Countries are encouraged to undertake public awareness activities to reduce misconceptions about epilepsy and encourage more people to seek treatment.


Delegates agreed on a resolution in which Member States recommit to stopping polio and to preparing for the phased withdrawal of oral polio vaccines. The meeting noted that Polio eradication can only be achieved through global solidarity. Reviewing the latest global epidemiology and the impact of on-going efforts, delegates highlighted progress across Africa and also also noted continuing efforts in Pakistan.

International Health Regulations

The recent Ebola outbreak has highlighted the importance of all countries having strong capacities to rapidly detect, respond and prevent global public health threats such as disease outbreaks. The International Health Regulations (2005), oblige all Member States to have these capacities in place. Only one-third of all countries (64), however, reported that they had met the minimum requirements in 2014. Speakers at the Assembly recognized the important role WHO plays in providing expertise and guidance to help countries enhance surveillance systems and laboratory services, build early warning and alert systems, and train health workers so that they can deal with major public health threats. They expressed strong support for pairing well-resourced countries with other countries to help them to meet the IHR requirements.
Delegates endorsed the International Health Regulations Review Committee recommendation to extend the deadline to 2016 to all countries that need more time to implement the Regulations. The recommendation also emphasizes a dynamic, ongoing process of evaluation and improvement, and the value of independent assessment.
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