RHD Action Participate in WHO Meetings for South-East Asia and Africa
From late August to early September, RHD Action participated in the Committee meetings for two WHO (World Health Organization) regions: Africa and Southeast Asia.
Taking place annually, the regional meetings are held to determine regional health policy and to approve programmes of work. Each of the 6 WHO regions is guided by a specific agenda.
Following the decision by the WHO Executive Board in June to recommend a Resolution on rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease for adoption in 2018, the Regional Meetings present a valuable opportunity to further press the case for global policy on this preventable disease.
At the Regional Meeting for Africa – held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – RHD Action were represented by Jeremiah Mwangi of the World Heart Federation and Associate Professor Liesl Zühlke of RhEACH and the University of Cape Town.
In addition to advocating directly to government representatives, Associate Professor Zühlke delivered a policy statement during discussions on health systems strengthening for universal health coverage (UHC), in which she stressed the need to include selected RHD interventions in basic UHC packages and to prioritize implementation of the seven key actions to eradicate RHD outlined in the African Union Communiqué.
In the following week, Professor Anita Saxena of the All India Institute for Medical Sciences and Jeehan Mahmood of Tiny Hearts of Maldives participated in the regional meeting for Southeast Asia in Malé, the Maldives.
Professor Saxena also delivered a policy statement under the agenda item on ‘Access to Medicines’. Her address drew attention to ongoing shortages of benzathine penicillin G (BPG) – the essential antibiotic for primary and secondary prevention of rheumatic fever and RHD – and additionally raised concerns about the quality of BPG available due to adverse reactions among certain patients.
Four regional meetings still remain – these will take place in the next month, and will be held in:
- European Regional Office (EURO) – 11-14 September 2017, Budapest, Hungary
- Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) – 25-29 September 2017, Washington D.C., United States of America
- East Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) – 9-12 October 2017, Islamabad, Pakistan
- West Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) – 9-13 October 2017, Brisbane, Australia