Palliative care is not an optional extra–WHO

Categories: Care.

The Executive Board is a group of WHO members qualified in health, who meet in January every year to set the agenda for the World Health Assembly (WHA), the supreme decision-making body for WHO. The WHA meets in Geneva in May each year, and is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization.

Advocates have been working to ensure that palliative care is recognised as an integral part of every country’s health system, and support from WHO is essential to these efforts. Last year, successful advocacy resulted in palliation being included as part of the WHO definition of Universal Health Care. This year, Margaret Chan, WHO Director General, referred to palliative care in her opening address. Leading palliative care experts referred to this high-level recognition as “a culture shift.”

The secretariat of the World Health Organization has prepared a report on palliative care to the Executive Board to guide their discussion. Diederik Lohman, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The report definitely breaks some new ground and has a good set of recommendations for countries to implement.”

In the report, the secretariat states that palliative care: “…should not be considered as an optional extra,” and calls on countries to ensure that their national health systems include palliative care in the continuum of care for people with chronic, life-threatening conditions and also that palliative care is strategically linked to prevention, early detection and treatment programmes.

Visit the WHO website to view the report online.

Advance copies of The Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life, which was the source of many of the statistics used in the WHO report, will be distributed to delegates throughout the week. WHO will officially launch the Atlas in a press conference next week.

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