GENEVA, May 26 (Xinhua) -- The 71st World Health Assembly (WHA) closed on Saturday charting a new course for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the light of the "triple billion" targets for the next five years, said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At his closing speech on the final day of the WHA, Dr. Tedros recaptured the "triple billion" targets which were approved this week in WHO's new five-year strategic plan. By 2023 the targets aim to achieve: one billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage; one billion more people better protected from health emergencies; and one billion more people enjoying better health and wellbeing.
Dr. Tedros defined three keys behind the triple-billion targets. First is a strong WHO and leadership team that's more efficient and effective in its business practices; then the political commitment from governments, as "with buy-in from the highest levels, anything is possible,"; and third is an "even deeper and stronger" partnership "in whatever way we can to achieve our goal."
To realize the ambitious "triple billion" targets, the WHA also defined a number of key areas in which actions are to be stepped up, among which is noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), the No.1 killer so far worldwide.
WHO members reiterated that the international community has committed, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to reduce by one-third by 2030 premature deaths from NCDs, primarily cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, and to promote mental health and wellbeing. Each year, 15 million people aged 30 to 70 years die from an NCD and the current levels of decline in risk of premature death from NCDs are insufficient to meet the SDG NCD target.
Elsewhere, the WHA urged the WHO director-general, members and partners to continue support preparations for the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on ending tuberculosis (TB) in September this year. TB claimed 1.7 million lives in 2016 worldwide, including 0.4 million among people with HIV. TB remains the leading infectious disease killer in the world and is one of the top ten global causes of death.
Delegates also endorsed a resolution urging cholera-affected countries to implement a roadmap that aims to reduce deaths from the disease by 90 percent by 2030. Cholera kills an estimated 95,000 people and affects 2.9 million more every year, disproportionally impacting communities already burdened by conflict, lack of infrastructure, poor health systems and malnutrition. Over two billion people worldwide still lack access to safe water and are at potential risk of the disease.
As the world is closer than ever to being polio-free, the WHA adopted a landmark resolution on poliovirus containment to ensure that poliovirus continue to be retained, and to serve critical national and international functions such as the production of polio vaccine or research. It's crucial that poliovirus materials are appropriately contained under strict biosafety and biosecurity handling and storage conditions to ensure that the virus is not released into the environment, either accidentally or intentionally, to again cause outbreaks of the disease in susceptible populations.
Recognizing the potential of digital technologies to play a major role in improving public health, the WHA calls for prioritizing the development and greater use of digital technologies in health as a means of promoting Universal Health Coverage and advancing the UN SDGs. It also requests that the WHO develop a global strategy on digital health and supports the scale-up of these technologies in countries by providing technical assistance and normative guidance, monitoring trends and promoting best practices to improve access to health services.
And last but not the least, the assembly endorsed the WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA), a new initiative aimed at increasing participation in physical activity by people of all ages and ability to promote health and beat NCDs, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast and colon cancer, and support improved mental health and quality of life.
The WHO estimated that worldwide, 23 percent of adults and 81 percent of adolescents aged 11 to 17 years do not meet the global recommendations for physical activity. Prevalence of inactivity is as high as 80 percent in some adult populations influenced by changing patterns of transportation, use of technology, urbanization and cultural values.
"Everywhere I go, I have the same message: health as a bridge to peace," said Dr. Tedros at the WHA closing ceremony. "Health has the power to transform an individual's life, but it also has the power to transform families, communities and nations."
The WHO's new five-year strategic plan, he said, called on the organization to measure its success not by its outputs, but by outcomes -- by the measurable impact it delivers where it matters most -- in countries.
"The commitment I have witnessed this week gives me great hope and confidence that together we can promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable," he concluded.