World Health Assembly told U.S. will take holistic approach

May - June, 2009 | Volume 8, Issue 3

PHOTO: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks, seated at a table with others

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen
Sebelius participates in a discussion of A/H1N1
virus at her first World Health Assembly meeting
in Geneva.

Fogarty Director Dr. Roger I. Glass accompanied new Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Geneva for May's annual World Health Assembly, where she promised a holistic and cooperative U.S. approach to global health.

She told delegates America is committed to partnerships "to advance the cause of social justice, to expand access to health care and reduce health disparities" largely by focusing on disease prevention and maternal and child health.

The WHA is the policy arm of the World Health Organization and meets annually. This year, the four-day session focused on the A/H1N1 pandemic.

The group this year admitted Taiwan as an observer to the meeting, which Sebelius said "helps fill a gap that had existed in the global health network."

Sebelius said the world "demands a new, integrated approach to public health—one that seeks to understand and target the many factors that can threaten the lives and livelihoods of all our citizens."

To accomplish that, she said, President Obama has requested $63 billion over six years from Congress to support "a holistic approach." Despite limited resources, "President Obama will not shy away from the opportunity to lead and collaborate as we work together to protect the health and safety of communities across the globe," she said.

"We will not operate in isolation or ignore the good work that so many of your countries have done," she told the assembly, proposing creation of "international partnerships, cooperation and consultation ... to advance the cause of social justice, to expand access to health care and reduce disparities."

Glass said that while other global health issues got less attention in favor of discussions about the flu, the international transparency and cooperation that resulted from the crisis "has been a positive impact of the outbreak."

Among 16 resolutions the Assembly adopted were those to strengthen access to and treatment with anti-tuberculosis drugs, to improve access to medicines for disease disproportionately affecting the poor and devising a work plan to increase WHO assistance for addressing the implications of climate change on health.

View more information on the WHO website.

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