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70th World Health Assembly, Geneva

18 July 2017
Georgia Heighway

From the 22-31st of May 2017, member states of the World Health Organization came together for the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA). Member states voted in a new Director General, who took office on the 1st of July 2017. The new Director General was announced to be Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a candidate who stated in his election speech that he would ‘commit to having a senior level staffing person representing the nursing community on [his] team at WHO’ during his tenure.

The World Health Organization Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Development (WHO CC UTS) attended side meetings and collaborations at the WHA, represented by Professor John Daly, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Head of the WHO CC UTS and Ms Michele Rumsey, Director of WHO CC UTS. These were important events, with the purpose of advocating for the the nursing and midwifery profession on a global scale.

Member states attending the 70th WHA also discussed the potential role of WHO Collaborating Centres in strengthening nursing and midwifery worldwide. Jim Campbell of the WHO Human Resources for Health stated that the role of WHO Collaborating Centres are to ‘generate stronger evidence to justify the positive economic and social impacts of investing in the nursing and midwifery workforce, work with WHO to support member states on Nursing and Midwifery Development and to advocate/collaborate on strategic actions/initiatives’. Campbell also emphasised the importance of WHO Collaborating Centres in ensuring the successful implementation of the Global Strategy on Human Resources for Health.

One important agenda item for the 70th WHA was the approval of WHA Resolution 13.1, an item which was proposed by the International Council of Nurses. The document urged WHO to commit to a Five-Year action plan, and to clearly map and articulate the alignment between the recommendations of the United Nations’ High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, and the thematic areas of the Global Strategic Directions for Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery 2016-2020 document. Resolution 13.1 also encouraged WHO, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to establish a ‘specific working group that includes key nursing stakeholders’. Another recommendation was annual reporting against the creation of 40 million new health worker jobs expected by 2030, and to monitor ‘the potential of 18m health worker shortfall’.

One important aspect of the 70th WHA was Lord Crisp’s presentation of the ‘triple impact of the development of nursing’ outlined by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health Report. The document proposes that the development of nursing worldwide will lead to ‘improved health, the promotion of gender equality and increased economic growth’ on a global scale.

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