Speakers at the palliative care side event at the 67th World Health Assembly have recognised palliative care as a human right calling for improved access to essential medication and presenting palliative care as not just a medical issue, but also a social, family, community and systems issue.
Chairing the meeting, Director General for Public Health, Quality & Innovation, Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality of Government of Spain Mercedes Vinuesa Sebastián highlighted the importance of support of the resolution to be tabled later in the week for the integration of palliative care into health systems.
WHO Assistant Director-General Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health Dr Oleg Chestnov recognised palliative care as part of an interactive response to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
Dr Chestnov highlighted on the importance on increasing collaboration with UNODC and the INCB to ensure availability of controlled medications, calling on a multisectorial collaboration for the implementation of palliative care.
Director of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Department of Health of South Africa Sandhya Singh explained how South Africa’s chronic disease model is currently serving as a platform to integrate palliative care throughout the country.
She urged those listening not to forget the children when writing palliative care policy. “We are not dying, we are the living. Help us live until we die,” she said in conclusion.
These were among the distinguished panel of speakers, including assistant directors of the World Health Organization, members of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), heads of country health ministries and senior academia addressed the crowd present at the side event.
This event represented a significant milestone in the recognition of palliative care and was possible only as a result of many years of determined advocacy.
Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch Diederick Lohman said, “I think the attendance shows how much importance many delegations attach to palliative care. It offers real hope for strong implementation of the resolution.”
Senior Fellow to the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance Dr Stephen Connor said that the side event has shown how important advancing palliative care is to so many countries. “We sometimes think it is only those of us working in palliative care who believe that these issues are important, but the world is now realizing how essential palliative care is to every country’s health care system. We continue to be overwhelmed with the support of health care leaders when they realize what palliative care can do for their citizens; Not just for patients but for so many families. Everyone is touched, palliative care is everyone’s business,” he added.
For more on what was shared at the WHA event, read Kate Jackson’s article on the International Edition.