In light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 194 Member States of the World Health Organization are negotiating a ‘Pandemic Accord’. The aim of the new international instrument is to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and to increase health security. It is noteworthy - and a cause for concern, that neither the current Zero draft of the accord, nor the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body’s (INB) proposed compilation text, which is the basis for Member States negotiations, explicitly mention secondary or tertiary care.
ESMO delivered a statement at the INB 5th meeting on Monday 12 June 2023 to urge the negotiating parties to strengthen the wording on the preparedness and resilience of health systems by specifying both secondary and tertiary care, and the need to ensure robust referral systems from primary care to these levels of care, where cancer patients are treated. Given that an estimated one in five people will develop cancer at some point in their lives, this precision is crucial to not leave millions of patients behind and without adequate and timely care during and beyond pandemics.
The new Pandemic Accord is anticipated to promote political commitment at the highest level to prevent and respond to pandemics, as well as ensure sustained financial investment within and among countries. The INB will submit its outcomes for consideration and adoption by the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly in May 2024.
ESMO has also called on WHO and governments to support the inclusion of equally specific language on secondary and tertiary healthcare in the amendments to the legally binding International Health Regulations (IHR) and the 2023 UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage, still under negotiation and to be adopted by the UN on 21 September 2023.