“Remember the People”: First day at the 65th Annual World Health Assembly!

Monday May 21st, 2012
And so concludes our first day at the 65th World Health Assembly!!! Thanks to Dr. Heather Wipfli and the entire USC Global Health Institute, 14 of us MPHers were lucky enough to come to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the 65th annual WHA this whole week.  As soon as we stepped into the United Nations, we were surrounded by delegates from over 160 member countries and states—everything from ministers and secretaries of health to delegates from NGOs and the World Health Organization…

Me inside the UN Assembly Hall

Ministers of Health from Iraq and Iran
World Health Assembly panel, with DG Margaret Chan in the middle

The opening speeches by the President of the WHA Dr. Christos Patsalides and the Director General of the UN Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasized that each country has a “duty to do its best” to provide the best possible care for all people and that we need to strive for universal health care because after all, health is the most important social good and should be “enjoyed equally by all”… We then went to a few special topic sessions that included “Breaking Down Barriers: Addressing stigma and discrimination in health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons” led by Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of the Pan American Health Organization, we met with the Director of Health from Iraq and the Department of Public Health minister from Iran, we interviewed the US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius about LGBT issues and NCDs, and listened to the WHO Director General Margaret Chan formally address the Assembly… There were so many highlights from the day, but my favorite was meeting the US Secretary of HSS Kathleen Sebelius— she was kind enough to do an interview with us and updated us on LGBT issues in the US and the effectiveness of the It Gets Better Campaign. She also talked about the importance of NCDs as they are becoming an escalating public health topic all over the world. Please check out our interview with her here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec6C9uLd39I  

This entire day has been a whirlwind of  interviews, meetings, speeches, heel-induced blisters, dinner invitations, excitement, and I can’t wait for more!! Let’s see what Day 2 of the World Health Assembly brings us… to be continued tomorrow 🙂