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The World Health Assembly (WHA), held annually in May in Geneva, is the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The World Health Assembly is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the WHO Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organisation, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.

During the 2019 WHA, ESMO delivered an official statement requesting that the UN Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), to be adopted on 23 September 2019, specifically states: ‘Country governments must guarantee their entire population ‘UHC benefit packages’ that ensure financial protection, and include a core set of comprehensive, safe, affordable, effective and high-quality health services for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care of noncommunicable diseases, including cancer, delivered by an adequate, and well-trained workforce’.

ESMO delivered a second official statement on the WHO ‘Draft roadmap for access to medicines, vaccines and other health products, 2019-2023’. The roadmap aligns with the WHO 2019-2023 triple billion target to ensure that one billion more people benefit from UHC; one billion more people have better protection from health emergencies; and one billion more people enjoy better health and well-being. The ESMO statement called for the need to ensure that access to medicines is improved not only at the primary healthcare level but also at the secondary and tertiary levels where cancer care is provided.

In recent years, the WHA has discussed many cancer-related topics intended to increase availability of quality affordable cancer care. In 2017 the WHA passed a landmark ‘Cancer Resolution’ that serves as a roadmap for governments to implement actions to reduce deaths from cancer by 25% by 2025 and 33% by 2030, in addition to achieving universal health coverage by 2030.

ESMO regularly attends the WHA and makes official statements on topics of importance for the practice of medical oncology and the care of cancer patients.


WHO Meeting

During the 2018 World Health Assembly, ESMO delivered two statements positioning cancer as a priority on the WHO global agenda. ESMO advocated for the strengthening of health systems to achieve Universal Health Coverage and to provide essential healthcare services to the millions of cancer patients who die prematurely due to lack of access to appropriate treatment. In particular, ESMO called on the WHO to ensure that governments would be required to take specific actions in the interest of cancer control. ESMO made a second official statement on the issue of shortages of medicines and provided WHO with ESMO recommendations as well as supported the WHO Global Reporting System which will monitor the supply of essential cancer medicines.

During the 2017 World Health Assembly, ESMO delivered an official statement supporting the adoption of the 2017 WHO Cancer Resolution whose aim is to reduce cancer deaths and achieve universal health coverage. The actions recommended in the Resolution are designed to improve access and affordability of quality cancer care and its integration into national healthcare systems.

As an organisation representing medical oncologists, ESMO wants to ensure that patients have timely access to safe, affordable, effective, high-quality medicines, treatment and care.

During the 2016 World Health Assembly, ESMO co-hosted a side-event on the topic of ’Are we making the right investments for optimal cancer control? A global dialogue’. The outcome of this event was that several governments called on the WHO to present a ‘Cancer Resolution’ for adoption during the 2017 World Health Assembly.

ESMO, the UICC, the NCD Alliance and other endorsing partners delivered a joint statement at the 2014 World Health Assembly in Geneva supporting the adoption of the WHO Resolution ‘Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment throughout the life course’.

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