World Health Assembly Talks WHO Reform

WHO Seal

By Caity Jackson

As the World Health Assembly meets this week, two main items dominate the agenda: WHO reform and the post-2015 development priorities. Antimicrobial resistance is also as key focus, as is the rise in noncommunicable diseases around the world.

In light of West Africa’s recent Ebola epidemic, WHO’s capabilities to act quickly and effectively have been sharply criticized. The international community’s reactions have been so damning that an independent panel was gathered to assess the WHO’s response and provide expert suggestions for improvement, with the interim report being released to member states earlier this month. (For a recap of MSF’s criticisms, see this Devex article.) 

Much of the post-Ebola discussion has centered around reevaluating the organization’s role in global health and emergency medical response. The World Health Assembly is looking to make changes to increase functionality of the organization, through programmatic, governance, and managerial reform. The O’Neill Institute gives a great breakdown of these priorities as does a TWiGH episode on WHO reform.

The flawed Ebola response has also drawn attention to the idea of WHO creating an emergency response team and a contingency fund. Preparedness, surveillance, and response and health systems are also key topics being discussed in the official agenda.

In addition, 2015 is the culminating year for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and discussions have already turned to the post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and defining priorities to the work that remains to be done from the MDGs.

Aside from the main agenda and delegate meetings, there are a plethora of events to be held by prominent global health NGOs. They will cover a wide variety of issues, such as NCDs, human rights to health, universal health coverage, women’s health, adolescent health, climate change and health, innovative responses, partnerships in the field, and health for marginalized populations and in emergency situations.

By the annual meeting’s close on Friday, the international community is looking to the WHO for leadership in the next year and hoping that much-needed reforms will help the organization to step up to the challenge.

Note: For those unable to make the trip to the quiet capital of Switzerland (and arguably, the capital of global health), it will be webcast on the WHO website

Caity Jackson (MSc) is Director of Communications at This Week in Global Health (TWiGH) and will be live-tweeting from the World Health Assembly. Follow @caityjackson and @twighteam.

More information:

WHA Calendar—Global Health Council

68th World Health Assembly Provisional Agenda—WHO 

WHO reform: overview of reform implementation—WHO

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