Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Report on the 134th session of the WHO Executive Board

The 134th session of the WHO Executive Board (EB) took place from 20 to 25 January 2014 in Geneva. The agenda, with a record 69 items and 17 resolutions for discussion by an also record-breaking number of participants, included 25 technical and health items, some of them of particular relevance to the category of work Promoting health through the life-course and Monitoring the achievement of the health-related MDGs in the context of health post-2015.

Global Vaccine Action Plan

The report of the Global Vaccine Action Plan generated a good discussion on progress of global immunization goals and the reduction of child mortality. Many of the 24 delegates who took the floor emphasized, amongst others, the need for accurate, high-quality and accessible data, to facilitate timely actions towards improving national immunization programmes and monitor impact.

The Director-General of the WHO highlighted how the issue of data is intrinsically linked to better systems for the registration of births and deaths and other vital statistics. The need for integrated services inclusive of immunization were acknowledged by various countries. Other issues raised included the need for affordable vaccines and improved supply chains and logistics systems for efficient vaccine delivery. The progress report on the Global Vaccine Action Plan will be presented to the full World Health Assembly in May 2014.

Maternal, infant and young child nutrition

The report on maternal, infant and young child nutrition shared progress made to the comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, the global strategy for infant and young-child feeding and related documents. Member States welcomed the progress and encouraged coordinated approaches around existing accountability mechanisms for further monitoring.

Promoting health through the life-course

The item “promoting health through the life-course” was broken down in various parts. The first one focused on discussions on monitoring the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, which included a draft document for discussion on the Every Newborn: an action plan to end preventable deaths; and a discussion around the health in the post-2015 development agenda.

Comments mostly welcomed the progress achieved towards the MDGs and there was widespread support for the process presented to the EB members for a public consultation on the Every Newborn action plan, so it can be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2014.

On the post-2015 discussion, delegates strongly encouraged WHO to continue working with other agencies to align the outcomes of the thematic consultations to the current processes and called all Member States to engage in the events leading up to the setting of the post-2015 agenda, to ensure that health is included as a pillar for sustainable development and the unfinished agenda of the MDG can be continued and properly monitored under the new set of goals.

The second part of this item discussed the need for multisectoral action for a life course approach to healthy ageing. The report presented by the secretariat highlighted the challenges and responses posed currently in this area and suggested a few recommendations for the discussion of the Member States. Delegates expressed support for the actions outlined in the paper, which include among others, actions in the area of advocacy, coordination, support to Member States and the development of a global report on ageing and health in 2015.

Public health impacts of exposure to mercury and mercury compounds

On the item of public health impacts of exposure to mercury and mercury compounds, Member States discussed the report presented by the WHO and put forth a resolution for the next World Health Assembly. The resolution calls for active engagement of WHO and its Member States in the implementation of the Minamata Convention as one of the ways to address the negative impacts of mercury exposure to human health.

Violence against women and girls

A draft text towards a resolution on the role of the health system in addressing violence, in particular against women and girls was discussed and developed over the course of the week. Member States supported the development of the draft resolution for submission in May to the WHA at various intercessional discussions.

Many countries as well as the groups (on behalf of the 46 African region and EU countries) highlighted the need to address violence against women and girls and the key role the health sector can play within a multisectoral approach. The Board took note of the ongoing discussions of the draft resolution and encouraged Member States to finalize this work, to be duly considered by the 67th World Health Assembly.

WHO Global Reproductive Health Strategy and the Strategy to Eliminate FGM

The progress reports on the implementation of the WHO Global Reproductive Health Strategy and the Strategy to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) were well received. An inter-regional statement made on behalf of over 20 countries reminded the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 2014, and the crucial role played by the WHO Reproductive Health Strategy in support of its implementation. The statement highlighted the need for accelerated and revitalized attention to the WHO Reproductive Health Strategy for full implementation of ICPD beyond 2014.

Climate change and health

The progress report on climate change and health was well received, and Member States requested WHO to revise and scale up its technical support to Member States, with a particular focus on strengthening the climate resilience of health systems, and linking to air pollution.