WHO has developed the assistive technology capacity assessment (ATA-C) tool, a system-level tool to evaluate a country’s capacity to finance, regulate, procure and provide assistive technology. The ATA-C tool enables countries to better understand the current status and identify key actions to improve access to assistive technology: it can be used for awareness raising, policy and programme design and ongoing monitoring and evaluation. The ATA-C implementation process can also serve to bring diverse stakeholders together and build momentum for action.
The tool was developed by WHO, in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and with support of many other in-country partners. Its development has been informed by implementation in Bahrain, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iraq, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan, Uganda and Viet Nam. The tool development and country assessments were funded by UK aid under the AT2030 programme led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub, with contributions from the United States Agency for International Development.
To access the tool and supporting documents, WHO has created a dedicated portal. Through this portal, WHO will provide technical support and facilitate coordination and connections between the diverse stakeholders in countries. Click here to access the ATA-C portal.
The ATA-C is part of the WHO Assistive Technology Assessment (ATA) Toolkit, helping countries to collect effective and relevant data on assistive technology. For more information on the toolkit, visit the ATA Toolkit webpage.
WHA73 endorses resolutions on meningitis control and epilepsy, roadmap on neglected tropical diseases
Member States recommended the adoption of two resolutions on meningitis control and epilepsy at the 73rd World Health Assembly on Thursday (November 12).
Committee A, which focuses on programme and budget matters, decided to recommend the adoption of the first-ever resolution on meningitis, which would approve a global roadmap to defeat meningitis by 2030 – a disease that kills 300,000 people annually and leaves one in five of those affected with devastating long-term consequences.
The Committee also recommended the adoption of a resolution calling for scaled-up and integrated action on epilepsy and other neurological disorders such as stroke, migraine and dementia. Neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide.
The Committee further decided to recommend the adoption of a decision endorsing the new roadmap for neglected tropical diseases. The roadmap aims to achieve these targets by 2030: reduce by 90% the number of people requiring treatment for NTDs, eliminate at least one NTD in 100 countries, eradicate two diseases (dracunculiasis and yaws), and reduce by 75% the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) related to NTDs.
Committee A noted the Operational Framework for Primary Health Care, which aligns with the Declaration of Astana and resolution WHA72.2 (2019). WHO has established a Special Programme on Primary Health Care to roll out the Operational Framework – supporting Member States to build people-centred, resilient and sustainable primary health care-based health systems.
Committee B – which deals predominantly with administrative, financial and legal matters – reviewed the Director-General’s report on “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan”. The Committee also decided, by vote, to recommend the adoption of a decision requesting the Director-General, amongst others, to report on progress in the implementation of its recommendations to the next World Health Assembly.
All resolutions and decisions recommended by the Committees for adoption by the 73rd World Health Assembly will be included in the Committees’ reports to the Plenary and considered on Friday.
The World Health Organization has announced a new Council on the Economics of Health for All, staffed by leading economists and health experts, to put “Health for All” at the centre of how we think about value creation and economic growth.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the consequences of chronic under-investment in public health. But we don’t just need more investment; we must also rethink how we value health,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as he made the announcement on the final day of the resumed 73rd World Health Assembly on Friday.
Chaired by noted economist Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of the Economics of Innovation and Public Value and Founding Director in the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at University College London, the Council will aim to create a body of work that sees investment in local and global health systems as an investment in the future, not as a short-term cost. Designing such investments makes our economies more healthy, inclusive and sustainable.
The COVID-19 pandemic, with 52 million reported cases and 1.3 million deaths, has shown the dire consequences of chronic under-investment in health on the global economy and on the lives and livelihoods of billions worldwide.
Over the past year, the pandemic has ignited a socio-economic crisis like no other; a crisis that has undermined global stability and solidarity. It has stressed how interdependent health and the economy are and served as a reminder that health is a human right.
“We are living through multiple crises: economic, climate and health related. If we continue to patch up the system each time, we will always be one step behind. I am thrilled to work closely with Dr Tedros on a proactive Health for All economic agenda, to shape our economies so they truly have wellbeing and inclusion at the centre of how we create value, measure it and distribute it,” Mazzucato said.
Returning to the status quo following the pandemic will not be enough – we need an innovation-led transformation of our health systems to achieve economic well-being everywhere.
“The time has come for a new narrative that sees health not as a cost, but an investment that is the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies,” Dr Tedros said.
The Council on the Economics of Health For All is expected to hold its first virtual session in the coming weeks, to discuss its work plan and mode of operation. The Council will produce thought leadership for implementing change, and help to inform the piloting of initiatives at country level.
A new WHO Certification Programme for Trans Fat Elimination aims to recognize countries that have eliminated industrially produced trans-fatty acids (TFA) from their national food supplies. This is the first-ever certification programme that will recognize countries for their efforts to eliminate one of the main risk factors for noncommunicable diseases and protect their populations from premature death.
Increased TFA intake (>1% of total energy intake) is associated with coronary heart disease events and mortality. Industrially produced TFA is used in baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks, and certain cooking oils and fats that are used at home, in restaurants or in street food. Replacing it with healthier oils and fats is cost effective, life-saving, and feasible without changing the taste of food or its cost to the consumer.
The new certification programme also aims to accelerate global progress towards achieving WHO’s goal of eliminating industrially produced TFA by 2023, which was set as a priority target to be achieved in 13th General Programme of Work (2019 – 2023). To support countries reach the target and take action, WHO also released the REPLACE action framework in 2018.
A year later, WHO released six REPLACE modules to provide practical, step-by-step implementation guidance to countries. WHO recommends countries to adopt one of two best-practice policy options for eliminating industrially produced TFA from the food supply: (1) limit industrially produced TFA to 2g per 100g of total fat in all fats, oils, and foods, and (2) ban the production and use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHO).
Today, countries are responding to WHO’s call to action and many have passed and implemented best-practice policies. Currently best-practice TFA policies have come into effect in 14 countries (covering 589 million people) and additional 26 countries have passed a best-practice TFA policy that will come into effect in the next two years (covering additional 815 million people). Thus, in two years, approximately 1.4 billion people will be protected from industrially produced TFA.
Similar to other elimination and eradication programmes (e.g. smallpox, poliovirus, malaria and guinea worm), the proposed certification programme for TFA elimination is essential in establishing country accountability and accelerating global progress towards achieving the 2023 elimination target.
To qualify for certification, countries must demonstrate that a best-practice TFA policy has been implemented and that effective monitoring and enforcement systems are in place.
Application requirements and detailed criteria will be made available on the WHO website soon. WHO calls on all countries to take life-saving action by eliminating industrially produced TFA.
 Countries with best-practice policies that are already in effect may meet the criteria for certification and are encouraged to submit expressions of interest: Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand, United States.
Countries with best-practice policies that have passed but have not yet come into effect are encouraged to submit expressions of interest once they meet the criteria for certification: Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay.
WHO‘s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer, launched today, outlines three key steps: vaccination, screening and treatment. Successful implementation of all three could reduce more than 40% of new cases of the disease and 5 million related deaths by 2050.
Today’s development represents a historic milestone because it marks the first time that 194 countries commit to eliminating cancer - following adoption of a resolution at this year’s World Health Assembly.
Meeting the following targets by 2030 will place all countries on the path toward elimination:
- 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by 15 years of age
- 70% of women screened using a high-performance test by age 35 and again by 45
- 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment (90% of women with pre-cancer treated and 90% of women with invasive cancer managed).
The strategy also stresses that investing in the interventions to meet these targets can generate substantial economic and societal returns. An estimated US$ 3.20 will be returned to the economy for every dollar invested through 2050 and beyond, owing to increases in women’s workforce participation. The figure rises to US$ 26.00 when the benefits of women’s improved health on families, communities and societies are considered.
“Eliminating any cancer would have once seemed an impossible dream, but we now have the cost-effective, evidence-based tools to make that dream a reality,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But we can only eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem if we match the power of the tools we have with unrelenting determination to scale up their use globally.”
Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. It is also curable if detected early and adequately treated. Yet it is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. Without taking additional action, the annual number of new cases of cervical cancer is expected to increase from 570 000 to 700 000 between 2018 and 2030, while the annual number of deaths is projected to rise from 311 000 to 400 000. In low- and middle-income countries, its incidence is nearly twice as high and its death rates three times as high as those in high-income countries.
“The huge burden of mortality related to cervical cancer is a consequence of decades of neglect by the global health community. However, the script can be rewritten,” says WHO Assistant Director-General Dr Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela. “Critical developments include the availability of prophylactic vaccines; low-cost approaches to screening and treating cervical cancer precursors; and novel approaches to surgical training. Through a shared global commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and leaving no-one behind, the countries of the world are forging a new path to ending cervical cancer. “
The strategy is launched at a challenging time, however.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to preventing deaths due to cancer, including the interruption of vaccination, screening and treatment services; border closures that reduced the availability of supplies and that prevent the transit of skilled biomedical engineers to maintain equipment; new barriers preventing women in rural areas from travelling to referral centres for treatment; and school closures that interrupt school vaccine programmes. To the extent possible, however, WHO urges all countries to ensure that vaccination, screening and treatment can continue safely, with all necessary precautions.
“The fight against cervical cancer is also a fight for women’s rights: the unnecessary suffering caused by this preventable disease reflects the injustices that uniquely affect women’s health around the world,” says Dr Princess Nothemba Simelela. “Together, we can make history to ensure a cervical cancer-free future.”
The launch is being celebrated with a day of action across the globe, as ministries of health, partners, and cancer advocates engage in activities to improve access to cancer prevention and treatment for girls and women.
Around the world, monuments are being illuminated in the cervical teal, from Niagara Falls in North America to The Dubai Frame, to city skylines across Australia. (More information about the events in countries around the world and monument lightings will be posted on WHO’s event site: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2020/11/17/default-calendar/launch-of-the-global-strategy-to-accelerate-the-elimination-of-cervical-cancer).
Among the close contacts of the patient, one contact developed fever and cough after the onset of illness in the case. Specimens collected from all household contacts, including the symptomatic contact, were negative for influenza A viruses.
The family of Henrietta Lacks is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of her birth. As part of their Centennial celebration, they are supporting the global movement to eliminate cervical cancer and hosting exciting events in the United States to mark the launch of the global strategy.