The World Health Assembly opened in Geneva Switzerland on May 21 marking the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) founding in 1948.
Speaking in opening remarks during the plenary, Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand said, “The underlying solution for the issues we face is reducing grinding poverty, inequality, discrimination, and increasingly climate change. More than that, it is also about building trust.”
The Women in Global Health hybrid delegation are present to highlight, among other priorities listed above, the crucial role of the health workforce in the achievement of Universal Health Coverage, as stated in the WHA report.
After more than three years of the pandemic, health workers, especially women who are 70% of health workers globally, are burned out and significant numbers are leaving the profession in a ‘Great Resignation’, adding to a global shortage of health workers, and increasing health worker migration from low-income countries with vulnerable health systems.
In his opening address, Director-General of the WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for global health. He stated that the pandemic highlighted, “the huge burden of mental health disorders and the weakness of health services.”
“The end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency is not just the end of a bad dream from which we have woken. We cannot simply carry on as we did before. This is a moment to look behind us and remember the darkness of the tunnel, and then to look forward, in the light of the many painful lessons it has taught us.”
Dr Emma O’Brien, Founder and ongoing lead of the music therapy service at The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) reinforced the difficulties being experienced in the health workforce. She spoke about the traumatic impact of Covid-19 on health workers who are driven by a desire to provide care. She discussed the history of the scrub choir, which performed during the official opening and was formed during the pandemic. Dr. O’Brien emphasized the need for society to also extend care to health workers, in recognition of the work they do.
Other speakers included President of Mozambique Filipe Nyusi; President of the Slovak Republic Zuzana Čaputová; Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres; and Miss Renée Fleming, Goodwill Ambassador for Arts and Health.
Walk the Talk
The #WalkTheTalk for Gender Equity campaign took to the streets in Geneva, Switzerland today alongside Dr. Tedros, Director-General of WHO, Dr. Rana Hajjeh, Director of Programme Management at the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office and Jacinda Ardern, former Prime Minister of New Zealand in an inspiring display of collective action.
Gender champions from the Women in Global Health movement, the global platform UHC2030, and members of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) united in calling for gender transformative policies in global health.
The campaign ignited conversations on the urgent need for change, calling on policymakers and institutions to step up and prioritize gender equity as the foundation for building resilient health systems, Universal Health Coverage and ensuring global health security.