25 May 2005 As it concluded its annual session today in Geneva, the United Nations health policymaking body adopted key resolutions affecting global public health, including strategies on global immunization and cancer prevention and control.
Highlights of the meeting of the World Health Assembly, which oversees the work of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), also included adoption of the revised International Health Regulations that govern national and international response to disease outbreaks, and the approval of the programme budget for 2006-2007, which includes a 4 per cent increase in the regular budget.
The Assembly also established World Blood Donor Day as an official event to be celebrated every 14 June.
The resolution on cancer, which calls on Member States to develop national cancer strategies, was a priority because of the worldwide increase in the disease in both developing and developed countries, according to WHO. Cancer is now the second leading cause of death in the world, with more than 20 million people now living with it and seven million dying annually.
"This resolution provides the impetus for countries to address the cancer health crisis," said WHO Director-General Dr. Lee Jong-wook. "Given the impact of cancer on public health, I am convening an advisory committee of leading experts on this issue to develop a global cancer control strategy."
Aimed at vaccine-preventable diseases, the Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS) was designed by WHO together with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Such diseases kill more than two million people every year, two thirds of whom are young children.
"One in four children is still deprived of life-saving vaccines that should be within reach," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman. "This new strategy recognized that if we are to improve survival, immunization must be sustained year in and year out."
The World Health Assembly convened on 16 May. More than 2,200 people attended, representing WHO's 192 Member States as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other observers.