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ESMO Calls on the WHO Member States to Prioritise Cancer Prevention and Care Policies at the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva

Pandemic Agreement, amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005), HPV and HBV vaccination coverage, the impact of air pollution and the 14th General Programme of Work (2025-2028) in the centre of ESMO’s contributions to the WHA 77
05 Jun 2024

ESMO consistently engages in high-level global health forums, focusing on crucial issues affecting patients with cancer and their doctors, and sharing knowledge and tools to help the World Health Organisation (WHO) Member States improve access to optimal cancer care for all.

As a recognised ‘Non-State Actor in official relations with the WHO’, ESMO was invited to deliver statements at the official proceedings of the 77th WHO’s World Health Assembly (WHA77) in Geneva, Switzerland between 27th May and 1st June 2024. These individual statements addressed the following topics:

  1. Pandemic Agreement – urging Member States to integrate disaster risk management into both secondary and tertiary healthcare where millions of patients with cancer are predominately treated; and to ensure continued access to life-saving services during and beyond emergencies.
  2. Amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005) – stressing the importance of strengthening health systems’ preparedness for future pandemics so that the millions of patients with cancer are not left behind, and highlighting that pandemic related urgencies should not overshadow essential care for patients or compromise decent working conditions of healthcare professionals.
  3. Immunization Agenda 2030 – by emphasising that prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for cancer control and urging the WHO Member States to:
    • Include gender-neutral, routine vaccination against human papillomaviruses (HPV) in their national programmes.
    • Maximise the uptake of the vaccines against the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and raise awareness among high risk and disadvantaged groups on the benefits of the vaccines.
    • Improve vaccination coverage against both HPV and HBV viruses by making them mandatory and free of charge for all as part of national vaccination programmes.
  4. Climate change, pollution and health – by urging the national governments to align their air quality standards with the WHO’s recommendations, in particular the annual limit value for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in order to reduce the incidence of lung cancer (including non-smokers) and breast cancer. As a result, the WHA77 adopted a landmark resolution on climate change and health (including air pollution) by consensus with support from a coalition of 37 co-sponsor member states and the WHO is expected to work on developing the Global Plan of Action on Climate Change and Health (GPoA) to deliver on the agreed commitments alongside WHO’s strategy aimed at transitioning to climate neutrality by 2030.

In addition, ESMO joined a constituency statement by the NCD Alliance (NCDA) on the 14th General Programme of Work: 2025-2028 (GPW14), which forms a high-level roadmap that will guide WHO’s work for the next 4 years and reinvigorate actions needed to get the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on track, including cancer, while future-proofing health and care systems for the post-SDG era. GPW14 will also serve as the technical strategy to underpin the first WHO Investment Round proposed for end 2024. The joint statement delivered by the NCDA emphasised the importance of a robust framework of national NCD-specific indicators to help inform policies and investments, which will complement the GPW 14 results framework. These frameworks should include data on the burden of NCDs, service coverage (including access to essential medicines, technologies, and diagnostics across all levels of the health system), catastrophic health spending, and overall investment in NCD services.

By delivering these statements at the WHA77, ESMO aims to secure a more robust and inclusive approach to cancer prevention and care on a global scale. By addressing critical areas such pandemic preparedness, vaccination coverage against preventable cancers, climate change, air pollution and the integration of health policies, ESMO underscores the need for resilient health systems that prioritise cancer care amidst global crises. These efforts are intended to ensure that essential cancer services remain accessible and effective, safeguarding the health of millions of patients with cancer worldwide.

ESMO’s advocacy is designed to further influence the WHO Member States to adopt and implement policies that reflect these priorities, leveraging international platforms like the WHA to catalyse action. Through collaboration with the WHO and other stakeholders, ESMO aims to drive forward a global agenda that not only mitigates the impacts of current and future health emergencies but also strengthens the overall infrastructure for cancer care, thus paving the way for sustainable health financing and the achievement of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

About the WHO’s World Health Assembly

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The 77th World Health Assembly had as a theme: ‘All for Health, Health for All’.

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