Task Force Contributions at 75th World Health Assembly

The Task Force for Global Health focused on four key global health issues at the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) from May 22 – 28. Each of these draws on core Task Force program strengths and experiences:

  1. Human resources for health: Elevating health workforce development through field epidemiology training programs connected by the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network; strengthening national immunization systems based on the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction’s infrastructure for seasonal influenza programs; and fostering integrated health campaigns through research facilitated by the Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition.
  2. WHO’s equitable response to emergencies: Through the Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics’ research, innovation, and training for more compassionate and ethical health services.
  3. Access to vaccines: Ensuring low- and middle-income countries have the means to deliver them through resources and technical collaboration from the COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Program.
  4. Strengthening health systems

During sessions with Member States and the WHO, Task Force staff will offer statements and calls-to-action on these topics.

Since 2018, The Task Force has been a non-State actor in official relations with the WHO, participating in sessions about the COVID-19 response, the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) Roadmap 2030, Immunization Agenda 2030, global health sector strategies on HIV, viral hepatitis, STIs, and polio eradication.

Stay tuned for live WHA updates here.

Day 1  – Sunday, May 22

The Task Force is represented  at the in-person Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland by our Director of Federal and Global Affairs Courtenay Dusenbury (right).

To open the Assembly, Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus spoke about the meeting’s theme of Health for Peace.

Leprosy advocate Mr. Yohei Sasakawa won the Director Generals’s special award for Global Health in recognition of his work for leprosy for over 40 years. The award was accepted by Taka Nanri, vice-chair of The Task Force’s Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy leadership team.

Day 2 – Monday, May 23

“I know we can find common ground because we share common goals,” said Loyce Pace, the U.S. Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs during her remarks during Tuesday’s plenary. 

The Task Force supports Pace’s comments on strengthening WHO, and capacity in every nation as essential to addressing the current pandemic and preparing for the next one.

Task Force joined a joint statement led by Sightsavers on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases.

Day 3 – Tuesday, May 24

Bettina Borisch, Professor of Global Health at the University of Geneva, presented the joint statement.

In a joint constituency statement led by the World Federation of Public Health Associations, The Task Force contributed to the following statement on pandemic preparedness:

We support the adoption of a Pandemic Treaty
founded upon the values of human rights, equity, and solidarity.

Because the actors involved in any response to a future pandemic are varied, for such an instrument to be effective, it must result from strong multilateralism, with equal respect and participation afforded to all partners involved, including non-state organizations committed to the public interest.

It must embrace the wide range of individuals, communities, governments, and the private sector necessary to prevent epidemics and strengthen social protection and health systems, including the protection of the workforce’s health – a workforce that extends beyond the health professions, such as doctors, nurses, and social workers, and includes service workers, such as bus drivers, janitors, and supermarket clerks. It must also include environmental health officers, who are increasingly necessary in an ailing world.

For any Pandemic Treaty to be effective, it must likewise centre community engagement, educate and involve community members, employ effective communication strategies throughout, and thereby foster trust — without public confidence in the process and its policies, any instrument is doomed to fail.

Moreover, the Treaty must ensure an equitable distribution of resources, from financial assistance to vaccine access, knowledge sharing and technology transfer. It must safeguard the health of the marginalized.

Further, it must acknowledge that any instrument needs to integrate palliative care into primary health care, including the training of healthcare workers and the availability of related medicines to all – regardless of economic status – and thereby ensure that those already affected by other diseases, and those who cannot be saved, are guaranteed a dignified death.

It must ensure that preparedness and response interventions are environmentally sustainable and in line with climate commitments – these interventions must not further endanger our planet.

Lastly, for the instrument to be meaningful, it requires accountability and transparency mechanisms.

During the continuation of Committee A discussions on sustainable financing, Dusenbury shared the following Task Force statement:

The Task Force for Global Health is a nonprofit based in Atlanta, Georgia, working with more than 150 countries. We work with WHO in 13 technical areas including field epidemiology training, polio, hepatitis, influenza, NTDs and others.

We strongly support the report of the Committee on Sustainable Financing.

We congratulate the Member States that worked tirelessly and with enthusiasm and patience to bring about this agreement.

We know we will only succeed at overcoming COVID, and the health emergencies to come, if we work together.

To do so, WHO must be able to implement the plans agreed by Member States with sufficient resources to ensure success. The financing agreement being considered today is a groundbreaking step forward.

We join fellow advocates in pledging to educate national leaders and the public on its necessity.

Day 4 – Wednesday, May 25

During Committee A’s session on public health emergencies preparedness and response, The Task Force shared the following statement from The Task Force’s Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET) Director Dr. Carl Reddy.

Day 5 – Wednesday, May 26

Most activities were focused on non-Task Force related items.

Day 6 – Wednesday, May 27

Global Health Council’s Kiki Kalkstein gave a joint statement on behalf of The Task Force, Women Deliver, Save the Children U.S., and World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists about human resources for health, encouraging the assembly to be a turning point for the global health workforce.

During Committee A’s session on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), The Task Force shared the following statement from The Task Force’s NTD programs represented by the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center Director Dr. Patrick Lammie.

During Committee A’s session on the Global Immunization Strategy, The Task Force shared the following statement from The Task Force’s Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition represented by Dr. Kristin Saarlas.

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Header photo: WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus makes opening remarks for the 74th World Health Assembly, May 2021, in the Executive Board Room at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva. Photo courtesy of the WHO.

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