Hi everyone, I’m Cammie Ahles. Today was our first day at the 65th Annual World Health Assembly! After touring around beautiful Geneva for a few days, I was really excited to actually start working on our practicum experience today. We ended up getting to the UN earlier than expected.
We left the Cite at a bright and early 7:30 AM, which is pretty amazing considering 11 girls had to get ready using only one bathroom! At the UN, we started our day with the welcoming plenary session. I was thrilled to learn that the assembly is focusing heavily on implementing global strategies for women and children’s health, as I’m on the Maternal and Child Health track of the MPH program and particularly interested in this topic. Several speakers addressed the importance of improving infant and child nutrition and focusing on prevention.
We watched the election of the new president of the 65th World Health Assembly and the 5 vice presidents. Interesting side note, there are earpieces with translators for all the major languages, which was really impressive!
After the welcoming plenary session, we toured the various information booths and set out to interview delegates. Our group interviewed Ntsime Jafeta from Lesotho and Alexandre Manguele from the Republic of Mocambique. Jafeta, who works with the Lesotho mission of Geneva, discussed human rights, specifically HIV/AIDS in South Africa. He expressed that the biggest barriers include increasing access to medical treatment and eliminating the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS testing. Many Lesotho natives are scared to check their HIV/AIDS status, which Jafeta hopes to overcome through education. Alexandre Manguele discussed the growing problem of NCDs. He emphasized that NCDs are a global problem, regardless of the economic status of the country.
In the afternoon, we attended a session titled “Maternal, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition: Global Targets and National Success Stories.” They outlined 4 targets for improving child and maternal nutrition, which include reducing the number of women affected by anemia, reducing the number of infants born with low birth weight, decreasing childhood obesity rates, and increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates. This session was particularly motivating, as delegates discussed several targets in maternal and child health that I learn about in my classes.
Our last session of the day included an event sponsored by the NCD Alliance. This event consisted of a panel including several diplomats from various public health organizations. The Minister of Mexico presented an exceptionally compelling speech, revealing several aspects of Mexico’s health care system of which I was unaware. For example, I learned that Mexico is striving to incorporate public health content in 25% of the board exams for physicians continuing onto specialties, in effort to increase physicians’ awareness to and subsequent practice of public health principles.
After the session we met Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, who gave us his business card and told us he loves hearing opinions from young minds and is partial to Americans because his wife is from Chicago. All in all, it was a great first day at the WHA!
(Posted on Cammie’s behalf)