Purposeful discussion in Dublin on the World Health Assembly Palliative Care Resolution

Categories: Leadership.

The Colloquium brought together palliative care professionals and global leaders, along with users of palliative care services represented by Voices4Care.

Discussions centred around how to advance the implementation of the WHO resolution: Strengthening palliative care as a component of comprehensive care throughout the life course.

WHO representatives introduced palliative care initiatives by the Organization. Dr Belinda Loring, Technical Officer for the Management of Non-communicable Diseases at WHO Headquarters in Geneva,  introduced the responsibilities of the WHO and those of countries in terms of implementing the Resolution.

The WHO responsibilities include:

  • integrating palliative care into the core work of other WHO programmes
  • developing tools and guidance for member states
  • supporting member states to improve access to medicines
  • building the evidence base for models that work, especially in low and middle income settings; and
  • improving monitoring and tracking progress.

The responsibility of countries in implementing the resolution include:

  • developing and strengthening palliative care services to be integrated at all levels of the healthcare system
  • ensuring all healthcare professionals have at least basic competence in palliative care
  • supporting families, caregivers and volunteers and improve access to medicines.

Dr Loring noted that the lack of palliative care is “an avoidable humanitarian crisis,” and noted that countries of all income levels could do more to reduce suffering.

Dr Ed Kelley, Director for the WHO Patient Safety Programme, noted that in his view access to palliative care was an issue of rights and equity. He suggested that a key question was how to ensure that the most vulnerable and marignialised people in the world would be able to access palliative care if they needed it.

Presentations from palliative care leaders from around the world addresses the global approach to palliative care, and explored various models of palliative care provision from countries such as Kenya, Romania and India.

Dr Lukas Radbruch, led a discussion on the role of palliative care in chronic illnesses, highlighting not only the need for palliative care beyond end of life care, but also the vital importance of working in collaboration with family physician and other professionals involved in a person’s care.

Liz Gwyther, CEO of the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa, and Chair of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), said: “The Colloquium provided a good opportunity for palliative care champions to pool their considerable knowledge and experience to discuss the issues, ask questions and provide perspectives from different countries and regions around the world.

“Although some of the speakers were from low and middle income countries, in the audience and therefore the general discussions, these countries were still under-represented.”

Ms Anne Molloy, a member of Voices4Care spoke about the death of her father and the variable care he received toward the end of his life. She said: “When the person you care about is treated with kindness, it brings you comfort. When they are treated badly it is devastating.”

Ms Molloy’s presentation helped to ground the previous discussions on palliative care in the personal experience of someone on the receiving end of that care. 

Dr Frank Brennan, Palliative Care Physician at St. George & Calvary Hospital, Sydney, Australia, said: “Anne Molloy’s address was a poignant and insightful reminder of the effect of our care on patients and their families. What may be routine for the health professional is highly personal for the patient and their family. 

“Through the story of her father’s illness, Ms Molloy reminded us that how we care – with what sensitivity and what attention to detail – is observed closely and shall be remembered. Quite correctly, her powerful and eloquent talk spoke to these truths. If it can happen to one, it can happen to all. As Ms Molloy concluded: If good care is possible somewhere, it is possible everywhere.” 

The final session, led by Prof Frank Ferris and Liliana de Lima, looked at way in which leadership, research, education and practice can help meet the challenge to incorporate palliative care into national health systems.

The proceedings of the Colloquium will be written up as a report which will be available soon.

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