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ESMO Pushes for Global Health Security Negotiations to Address the Needs of Patients with Cancer

ESMO calls for sustainable cancer care services to be integrated into preparedness and response planning for both health emergencies and pandemics
08 Dec 2023

ESMO’s official statement, delivered on 7 December 2023 to the 6th meeting of the Working Group on Amendments to the International Health Regulations (WGIHR), stresses the need to strengthen secondary and tertiary care levels for health emergencies and pandemics. Given estimations that one in five people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, that cancer treatment disruption can have a heavy impact on survival, and that patients with cancer are predominantly treated at secondary and tertiary care levels, the precision is crucial. The call was amplified by the Geneva-based Health Policy Watch, that reports on the leading global health policy challenges and trends. 

First adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1969, the International Health Regulations (IHR) are a legally binding instrument that outlines countries’ responsibilities regarding the preparedness and response planning for disease outbreaks and other acute public health risks with potential to cross borders. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the current process of amendments to the IHR, and ESMO is consistently contributing to the negotiations by the 194 WHO Member States, to ensure that the unprecedented challenges the pandemic brought for oncology professionals and patients are addressed.

As climate change is catalysing a surge in infectious diseases, the impacts on health systems worldwide will be severe. Therefore, it is imperative to urgently strengthen the systems to be resilient across the cancer care pathway, including ensuring:

  • adequate, continued, and timely access to cancer and palliative care services and medicines,
  • the continuance of existing clinical trials, avoiding competition with resources required for health emergencies, and
  • support to oncology workforce wellbeing.

The amendments to the IHR are expected to be adopted in May 2024 at the World Health Assembly. ESMO will continue to contribute to the negotiations, enabled by its Official Relations Status with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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