Palliative Care at the World Health Assembly

Lukas Radbruch, Chair of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC), reports from the 67th session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, and explains why it’s an exciting place to be right now…

Lukas Radbruch

Prof Lukas Radbruch

Can you imagine that it could be exciting to listen to a convention of healthcare politicians discussing healthcare politics? I still find that hard to believe, even though the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) running this week in Geneva (19-24 May 2014) at the UN Palace of Nations is proving me wrong.

I have to admit that part of the excitement comes from the setting. If you are there for the first time, it is rather complicated to understand who’s who (people from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are lowest in the pecking order, delegates from member states are on top), what is happening next (usually not much), and where to get a free lunch (at the side events).

But this WHA has a special focus on palliative care. It started with the ATOME (Access to Opioid Medication in Europe) side event on Monday evening at the Domaine des Perthes, and as chair of the event I was happy and proud that three of the ambassadors of the permanent delegations to the UN attended (Latvia, Hungary and Panama), and that we had a large audience with participants showing a great interest in the results.

The panel at the palliative care side event on Wednesday

The panel at the palliative care side event on Wednesday

On Wednesday another side event, sponsored by Panama and nine other co-sponsoring member states, as well as the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA), the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC), the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), Human Rights Watch and others. The panel of experts represented the World Health Organization (WHO) and all regions of the world. Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, said that palliative care has to be an integral part of health care, and that she was looking forward towards a palliative care indicator. Sandhya Sing from the Ministry of Health in South Africa talked about the integration of palliative care in the new Integrated Chronic Disease Model. Myrna MacLaughlin-Anderson explained the education programme initiated in Panama, educating physicians, nurses and pharmacologists. Dr Nandini Vallath said that India is the major opioid supplier for the whole world, but back at home only 0.22% of the opioids that would be required are used, leaving so many patients suffering. High hopes are on the recent change in the Indian opioid legislation, which will enforce uniform legislation in all Indian states. Dr Hislam Abdullah reported on the astute partnership programme in Malaysia, where the Ministry of Health collaborates effectively with NGOs, for example the local hospice group buys the land and sets up the building, and the government pays staff costs for the palliative care service.

It was amazing to listen to evidence from all regions of the world, that palliative care is increasingly acknowledged. But we still have a long way to go. The two major actions from the World Health Organization, the Framework on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD Framework) and the programme on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), both include palliative care, but still as a fringe subject.

Maybe this will change when the palliative care resolution that was prepared by the WHO Executive Board in January, and which is being discussed right now in the World Health Assembly, will be passed tomorrow. This will be the first time that the highest-ranking global health authority publishes a statement on palliative care – and a clear and very positive one too. It is time to celebrate this success – please join me in drinking a toast to palliative care, wherever you are. And then it’s back to work: the next step will be to implement the recommendations from the WHA palliative care resolution in each of the member states throughout the world!

To found out more…
Follow the discussion on twitter: #hpmglobal, #wha67, #uhc.

 Are you coming to Lleida?


See you at the 8th EAPC World Research Congress in Lleida, Spain. 5-7 June 2014. Follow us on Twitter @EAPCOnlus – our official congress hashtag is #eapc2014 

Nous aurons le plaisir de vous accueillir au 8ième Congrès Mondial de Recherche de l’EAPC en Espagne du 5 au 7 juin 2014. Suivez-nous sur Twitter @EAPCOnlus avec le hashtag officiel du congrès #eapc2014

This entry was posted in ADVOCACY & POLICY, ATOME, NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL REPORTS, Opioid access and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Palliative Care at the World Health Assembly

  1. Pingback: Palliative Care at the World Health Assembly | EAPC Blog | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

  2. Dear Professor Lukas Radbruch
    “It’s time to celebrate this success”, and many-many People in Pain in the World are thanking all Those are thinking, studying and best-practising of-and-for Them. I will be with You with all my studies and researches in the field of Non-PharmacologicalCare for PreverbalOncologicChildren and these studies are focusing on behavioral-cognitive-emotional-environmental Therapy, for EveryChild in Pain, in the World, in Memory of my Little Giampaolo, born on 5th March 2009 and died on 17th October 2010.
    I join You, Professor Radbruch, in this Feast of Life-within-Life.
    Luisella Magnani

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