A Day of Health, Human Rights and Global Strategy

May 25th’s agenda at the 69th World Health Assembly covered a wide range of topics; from preparedness, surveillance and response to programme budget and financial matters. Today, I had the opportunity to attend the technical briefing on Survive, Thrive, Transform: Implementing the Global Health Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. The briefing began with representatives from South Africa, Kenya, Uruguay and Canada sharing their own countries’ successes, commitments, initiatives, and challenges implementing the 2016-2030 Global Strategy. After each country shared their story, we received a visit from the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan.

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I could feel the energy in the room elevate as the Director-General began to speak. Her words were powerful, and she expressed her support to the Ministers of Health attending the briefing. When discussing financing for Global Strategy initiatives, she spoke about the fact that in parts of Africa, healthcare is more expensive than in the United States. Dr. Chan stressed that we should figure out why costs are unreasonably high, and find a solution. She said, “There is a difference between greed and profit. No country should be ripped off!” After statements by the Director-General, we heard from the Director of UNAIDS, the Assistant Director-General of Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, the Citizen’s Hearings Representative, and other various actors.

The last person to give a statement was Kate Gilmore, The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ms.Gilmore made a significant announcement regarding human rights and health. She announced the establishment of a high-level working group to advance the inclusion of human rights into health. Ms.Gilmore explained that this new group will uphold and enhance dignity, discuss data regarding all forms of discrimination, and will focus on giving women and children a voice as partners in health.

It was incredible to see first hand the way global politics plays out. The briefing I discussed in this blog took up only a fraction of my day (1.5 hours). I attended many more events and meetings from various areas of global diplomacy and health advocacy. Today was an exciting day at the Assembly, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.


Dawn Chisholm is a Master of Public Health student at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The USC Institute for Global Health organizes an annual trip to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the course “Global Health Governance & Diplomacy in Practice in Geneva at the World Health Assembly.”  This year, a group of 12 students are  embedded as delegates to NCD Alliance members at the 69th World Health Assembly May 23-28. 

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