Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly – Daily update: 29 May 2023


The World Health Assembly approved an unprecedented resolution on the health of indigenous peoples, which requests the Director-General to develop a global action plan for indigenous peoples’ health and present it to the Seventy-ninth World Health Assembly in 2026.
Indigenous peoples, although representing diverse population groups and communities, generally have considerably lower life expectancy than non-indigenous populations. They also have a higher prevalence of many diseases and adverse health conditions, including diabetes, maternal and infant mortality and malnutrition.
The Assembly requested the action plan be developed in consultation with indigenous peoples; that the WHO provides support to Member States, upon request, for improving indigenous health; and that the improvement of indigenous peoples’ health be included in the development of the Fourteenth WHO General Programme of Work.
In the exact resolution, the Health Assembly urged Member States to, among other tasks, develop knowledge about the health situation of indigenous peoples, with their free, prior and informed consent; develop, fund and implement national health plans, strategies or other measures for indigenous peoples; encourage the attraction, training, recruitment and retention of indigenous peoples as health workers taking into account the traditional knowledge and practices.

Global Vaccine Distribution and Access

The Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly delegates agreed on a resolution to accelerate action on global drowning prevention. The resolution requests Member States to assess their national drowning situation and to develop and implement multisectoral drowning prevention programmes.
Drowning causes 236 000 deaths yearly, a leading global cause of injury-related child deaths. Over the past decade, 2.5 million people died from drowning, and over 90% occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
At the request of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, WHO will coordinate actions within the UN system on drowning prevention and facilitate the observance of World Drowning Prevention Day on 25 July each year.
WHO will also set up a Global Alliance for Drowning Prevention with organizations of the UN system, international development partners and nongovernmental organizations. To better understand the actual burden and impact of drowning, the resolution further requests WHO to prepare a global status report on drowning prevention.
Member States welcomed the resolution addressing environmental determinants, including the management of chemicals and waste. The efforts can help prevent up to one-fifth of all suicide-related deaths from highly hazardous pesticides.

Reports from Regional Committees

Member States were urged to bolster the implementation of existing WHO strategies, including the WHO Chemicals Roadmap, which outlines the critical roles of the health sector in implementing the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. The resolution also encourages the Ministries of Health to engage in efforts to prepare proposals for an intergovernmental science-policy panel and negotiations for a treaty to end plastic pollution.
The resolution called upon the Director-General to undertake several actions, including publishing a report on the health implications of chemicals, waste and pollution from a “One Health” perspective; updating the 2012 document on the shape of the Science of Endocrine disrupt Chemicals jointly with the United Nations Environment Programme; and supporting countries in developing national or regional human biomonitoring programmes for chemicals of concern.

Member States agreed to adopt the “Global framework for integrating well-being into public health utilizing a health promotion approach”, which strives to enable all people to flourish and achieve their full physical and mental health potential throughout their lives and across generations. The Global framework recommends six key strategic directions focusing on universal health coverage, equitable economies, protecting the planet, social protection systems, digital systems to enable health, and measuring and monitoring well-being.
The framework proposes close collaboration with sectors outside the health sector to promote and protect health. It serves as a guide for all stakeholders to engage in a coherent and coordinated manner around a common purpose: promoting the health of people and the planet sustainably and equitably.
The delegates approved a resolution on accelerating efforts to prevent micronutrient deficiencies through safe and effective food fortification.

Updates on Resolutions and Decisions

Deficiencies in vitamin and mineral status, particularly folate, iron, vitamin A, and zinc, affect 50% of all preschool-aged children and 67% of all women of reproductive age worldwide. Micronutrient deficiencies can have serious consequences, including spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Large-scale food fortification is part of the solution. By national consumption patterns and deficiencies, countries can correct and further prevent a demonstrated micronutrient deficiency by adding essential vitamins and minerals to staple foods and condiments, such as wheat and maize flours, rice, cooking oil and cooking oil and salt.
The resolution urges Member States to develop policies on food fortification with micronutrients and supplementation and to consider strengthening financing and monitoring mechanisms.

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Olivia Wilson

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