In late May, 2017, hundreds of public health experts converged in Geneva, Switzerland as the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA70) convened. On the agenda, the election of a new Director-General who would guide the World Health Organization (WHO) for the next five years, the implementation of WHO’s new Framework of Engagement with Non-State actors (FENSA), Global Health Security, Health System Strengthening and a new, more focused definition of substandard and falsified medicines.
U.S. HHS Secretary Dr. Thomas Price Voices Support for Global Health Security Agenda
On Day 1 of WHA70, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Dr. Thomas Price delivered a statement on behalf of the U.S. government, outlining the country’s biggest priorities concerning global health and underscoring U.S. support for the Global Health Security Agenda.
Global Health Security was also the focus of an event that featured a select group of women leaders, among them Dr. Kate Bond, USP VP, International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs. It was the first of five events where USP would have an instrumental role in discussions of medicines access, maternal and child health, global health security, building resilient health systems, crucial conversations on global health and priorities for the next WHO Director General.
In her final speech before the Assembly, Dr. Margaret Chan pointed to the importance of non-state actors and civil society to global health efforts. (Non-state actors include NGOs, private sector entities, philanthropic foundations, and academic institutions.)
Priorities for the Next Director-General: Dr. Tedros
Day 2 would be dominated by the election of the new Director-General, which would take place later that day. A high-profile discussion, “Priorities for the Next WHO Director General,” featured a keynote speech by HHS Secretary Price, a panel of thought leaders from the global public health community and closing remarks by USP CEO Dr. Ron Piervincenzi.
Resilient Health Systems are Necessary to Support Vulnerable Populations
And later that day, Jude Nwokike, Director of the Promoting the Quality of Medicines Program, a USAID-funded program implemented by USP, was among the panelists discussing maternal and child health and the importance of health systems strengthening in helping vulnerable populations.
As the event ended, attendees learned that Dr. Tedros had been elected the New Director General. Not long after, USP staff had the opportunity to congratulate him in person.
Crucial Conversations Foster Champions for Quality in Discussions of Access and Anti-Microbial Resistance
On Day 4, USP and Mexico’s COFEPRIS co-hosted a high-level discussion of the link between medicine quality and anti-microbial resistance (AMR). Attending the event were leaders from the ministries of health and regulatory authorities of 10 countries plus leaders from the WHO, the World Bank, ReACT, and the head of the Africa CDC.
Over the course of the event, USP attendees agreed to champion the importance of medicine quality in strategies to address AMR. It was a commitment some of them would put in play immediately. Dr. Suzanne Hill, Director, Department of Medicines and Health Products, WHO underscored the importance of quality-assured medicines in multiple presentations; Chief Medical Officer for the UK government - Dame Sally Davies’ tweet of support was echoed by the UK Mission in Geneva; and Precious Matsoso, Director General for South Africa’s Department of Health raised the issue during WHA70’s official proceedings just two days after the event.
New Terminology Will Help Focus Efforts to Address Substandard and Falsified Medical Products
On May 30, WHO introduced new definitions for substandard and falsified medical products. The more focused terminology will facilitate efforts to address the issue going forward. In addition, USP’s conversations with key leaders at WHO and from international ministries of health and regulatory agencies have raised the visibility of the importance of quality-assured medicines and the role of USP and our standards in global health.
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