On Sunday evening, mere hours before the start of the 65th World Health Assembly, I attended a strategy meeting of the NCD Alliance with Professor Wipfli and the two other team leaders. I left flustered, confused and worried that I was in over my head. While I was unsure what, if any, contribution I would be able to make to this team throughout the week, I knew one thing for sure—I was here to learn and this was the place to do it.
What I realized pretty quickly about the World Health Assembly is that most people are here to learn. Delegations from developing nations chat over coffee and croissants in the Serpent Lounge about the health problems their people face. Ideas are shared and lessons learned. I can only imagine that health ministers leave Geneva each year with a fresh perspective and a better understanding on how to deliver health affordably and efficiently in their respective countries.
While it seems that representatives from NGOs attend the WHA to push their own agenda, it turns out, many of them are here to learn as well. Stephen Prudhomme, Vice-President of Global Strategies for the American Heart Association spent some time chatting with our group earlier in the week. Prudhomme is at the WHA this week as part of the NCD Alliance. There is really no question, his organization has an interest in making NCDs a priority of the WHO. That said, he told us that the American Heart Association is still learning about how they can best work with WHO and they’re learning how the processes of the WHA work from year to year. “We are here to learn as well,” he said. “You are not the only ones.”
So, it turns out… I probably wasn’t the only one who was a little lost that first day. Here in Geneva, everybody has something to learn–and perhaps something to teach as well.