Geneva, 22 May 2014 - The World Health Assembly today approved a resolution to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis and proposals to improve global coordination of efforts to address noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, cancers, heart disease and stroke.
In addition, WHO's Director-General and the President of the Assembly presented four awards to leaders in public health, including two from the Americas.
Viral hepatitis is responsible for 1.4 million deaths every year; 500 million people currently live with the disease. There are 5 main hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D and E). Types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
The resolution, sponsored by Brazil, also highlights the importance of expanding hepatitis A and B vaccination programmes and further strengthening infection control measures in health-care settings — such as strategies to improve the safety of injections.
The resolution noted the importance of implementing appropriate measures to protect groups such as people who inject drugs from infection and to improve their access to diagnostics and treatment. As most people with chronic hepatitis B or C remain unaware of their infection, there is also a need to improve screening.
Delegates agreed to consider a range of measures to improve access to quality and affordable hepatitis medicines and diagnostics, whilst addressing intellectual property rights issues related to those products.
The delegates asked the WHO Secretariat to continue to help countries develop robust strategies and goals on hepatitis and to report regularly on the progress of such programmes, as well as examining the feasibility of eliminating hepatitis B and C.
More information: A67/13 Hepatitis - Improving the health of patients with viral hepatitis
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)
Delegates approved 9 indicators to measure progress in implementing the WHO Global NCD Action Plan. They also endorsed the terms of reference and workplan for a Global Coordination Mechanism.
The Assembly recommended that the Director-General submit proposed terms of reference for a United Nations Interagency Task Force on NCDs to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
A United Nations High-level Meeting will take place in New York on 10—11 July 2014 to review progress on NCDs. Member States asked the WHO Secretariat to report on the follow-up to this meeting at the next Health Assembly.
Public health prizes
Two institutions from the Americas were among those honored with special awards today: a Dominican organization that fights leprosy and a Costa Rican medical research institute.
The Sasakawa Health Prize was awarded to the Leprosy Control Foundation/ Hubert Bogaert Institute of Dermatology and Skin Surgery, of the Dominican Republic, to expand services for children affected by skin diseases other than leprosy.
The United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize was awarded to the National Institute for Health Research (INISA) of the University of Costa Rica for its work on gastric cancer and occupational exposure to pesticides.
The Ihsan Dogramaci Family Health Foundation Prize was awarded to Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta (Pakistan) for his global work on child and newborn survival and health.
The Dr. Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health was awarded jointly to Professor Sinata Koulla-Shiro (Cameroon) and the Czech Society of Cardiology (Czech Republic).
Post-2015 development agenda and polio vaccine
During a technical session, delegates discussed goals and targets for the post-2015 development agenda, a subject on the agenda for the Assembly's plenary. The debate on health goals is one of a dozen collective processes that are shaping the new international agenda. During the session, delegates were briefed on these consultative processes and the position of health within them.
Delegates were also convened by WHO to discuss the possible introduction of polio vaccines with attenuated poliovirus.