Highlights from the 2023 76th World Health Assembly

Categories: Featured, Leadership, and Policy.

Once a year the governing body of the World Health Organization meets to set policies for WHO and for global health throughout the world. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) and International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care (IAHPC) are privileged to be able to attend these meetings with a delegation and to address the Assembly after all the 194 member states give their input on a given agenda item in the meeting because we are both in “official relations” with WHO. In addition, there are usually many side events during the meeting which runs over a one-week period. This year there were a number of key agenda items that were of concern for the worldwide palliative care & hospice movement. The pandemic is a major topic and we’ve been striving to have some reference to palliative care in the pandemic preparedness and response treaty being negotiated. In addition, there are many longstanding issues where we need to make sure palliative care remains on the agenda and is not lost. These include:


  • Make sure palliative is included as countries try to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.
  • Making sure palliative care is prioritized in the response to non-communicable diseases,
  • Support for women and children’s care
  • Support the rights of disabled persons
  • Care for people with advanced HIV disease and for drug resistant TB patients
  • Strengthening rehabilitation
  • Refugees and migrants
  • access to essential palliative medicines
  • Older persons, and social determinants of health, just to name some of the key issues.


WHPCA had four delegates this year and IAHPC had six. For some of the main topics we have the option to give an individual intervention (speaking to the assembly) for one minute per topic or to join with others to give a ‘constituency statement’ for three minutes per topic. Sometimes it’s better to join with a group if there is consensus to include palliative care in the statement as it shows wider support for palliative care. These constituencies are all non-state actors (NSAs) who are in official relations with WHO. Most NSAs are NGOs but some represent commercial groups like the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations. WHO requires all NSAs to formally agree to certain restrictions like not accepting money from the tobacco industry. This year WHPCA joined constituency statements that included palliative care on the following topics: pandemic preparedness and response, Universal health coverage and non-communicable disease, and social determinants of health. We gave two individual statements on: disability and rehabilitation. Being in official relations with WHO allows WHPCA and IAHPC (and hopefully ICPCN soon) to keep palliative care on the radar screen for global policy makers.

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