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Geneva, Switzerland, 20 May 2013 (PAHO/WHO) -- Health ministers from around the world are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this week for the 66th World Health Assembly (20-28 May). Topping the agenda are issues including universal health coverage and a new framework for monitoring the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of WHO, and its yearly meeting is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States. The meeting focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the WHO Executive Board.

The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine WHO's policies, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed WHO program budget.

A delegation from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO's Regional Office for the Americas, is participating in the assembly, under the leadership of PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. High-level health authorities from PAHO/WHO member countries throughout the Americas are also attending. In all, an estimated 3,000 delegates are expected to participate in this year's meeting.

In addition to universal health coverage and NCDs, other subjects on this year's agenda include pandemic preparedness, access to vaccines, neglected tropical diseases, progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the post-2015 development agenda, and WHO reform.  

This year's special speakers include World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Swiss Minister of International Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson, and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma.

A number of technical reports will be presented during the meeting, including updates on measuring progress toward universal health coverage, preparations for a United Nations High-Level Meeting on Development and Disabilities, and international development cooperation, among other subjects.

Delegates from the Americas plan to hold a number of parallel meetings to discuss subjects ranging from viral hepatitis and malaria to the role of the health sector in reducing violence against women, human resources for health in the context of universal health coverage, and successful interventions against NCDs.