Director of Professional Practice Mr Stewart Whitley reports on the 73rd WHA meeting

Seventy- Third World Health Assembly (WHA) – Geneva, Switzerland 9-14 November 2020

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and Non State Actors and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

Zoom capture of some of the WHO member state country delegates along with other Non-sate delegates such as ISRRT.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General, WHO and President of the Assembly, Ms Keva Bain from the Bahamas at the opening ceremony along with the Nurses Choir from Tonga who inspired the meeting delegates.

At the time of writing I have had the privilege of attending, on behalf of ISRRT, the virtual 73rd WHA meeting held from Geneva, Switzerland over the dates 9-14 November 2020.

This meeting, which normally takes place in May, was deferred because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been held virtually using Zoom software. Sessions have been held daily with morning and afternoon packed agendas.   In addition to the plenary sessions two committees were established to consider a range of topics with Committee ‘A’ dealing with health matters and Committee ‘B’ addressing WHO managerial, administrative, staffing and governance structurers with some health maters transferred to the committee.

Central to the initial discussions were matters relating to COVID-19 and the experience of Member State counties in dealing with the pandemic and expressing their ideas for future actions and how lessons learnt and can be employed for a future virus pandemic.

Committee ‘A’ considered a range of health issues making recommendation and decisions which were approved by the Assembly. The agenda was structured in accordance with the WHO’s Pillar Goals which support their Universal Health Coverage goals:-

 Pillar 1: One billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage
 Pillar 2: One billion more people better protected from health emergencies
 Pillar 3: One billion more people enjoying better health and well-being
 Pillar 4: More effective and efficient WHO providing better support to countries  

Topics discussed included:-
–    Global vaccine action plan
–    Accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer as a global public health problem
–    Ending tuberculosis
–    Epilepsy
–    Neglected tropical diseases
–    Global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property
–    WHO’s work in health emergencies
–    Influenza preparedness
–    Cholera prevention and control
–    Poliomyelitis with emphasis on Polio eradication and Polio transition planning and polio post-certification
–    Decade of Healthy Ageing
–    Maternal, infant and young child nutrition
–    Accelerating efforts on food safety

Invited distinguished guests addressed the Assembly with representatives from Member States and Non State organisations making verbal or recorded statements. These statements addressed specific issues related to the agenda items with these statements and discussions contributing to the agreed resolutions and decision making process.

An award ceremony, consisting of six prizes, was conducted at the meeting with certain individuals receiving prizes in recognition of their outstanding contributions to public health development. Over the years, the prizes have been awarded to a wide range of recipients: well-known scientists and researchers; other dedicated individuals or entities who have greatly contributed through their work to the advancement of public health; and to institutions caring for the health of local communities.  Details of the awards can be found at

The full agenda, recordings of the proceedings, statements and outcomes of all the discussions can be found on the World Health assembly Journal website under WHA73

A common thread discussed my many member states was recognition of the key role of ‘Frontline Health workers’ during the pandemic, putting their lives at risk and working tirelessly on behalf of humanity by looking after their patients. The President of the Assembly, Ms Keva Bain from the Bahamas, thanked all the Non State Actors such as ISRRT for their valuable work in support of WHO.

In recognition of this WHO declared that 2021 will be the year of ‘Health and Healthcare Workers’.  As radiographers and radiological technologist we have something to be proud of!

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