In May, Rosie Herrington (IVSA UK & Ireland President), Sandra Stelzer (Germany) and Caroline Bulstra (Netherlands) represented IVSA at the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Let’s share our adventures!
The WHA is the highest decision-making body of the WHO, held every year in May. During this event, delegations from all UN member states, intergovernmental organizations and non-state actors (like Doctors Without Borders and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for example) get together to determine WHO’s policies and strategies on global public health topics. This to work towards WHO’s mandate: “Building a better, healthier future for people all over the world”.
The International Federation for Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) are both non-governmental organizations in official relations to the WHO, and therefore can take their delegations to the WHA. They are so kind to offer spots for IVSA officials to join their delegations!
For us, as veterinary students and young vets, several topics were of great interest to us. Firstly, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was high on the agenda at this year’s assembly again. In 2015, WHO adopted a Global Action Plan to provide guidelines for countries on how to address AMR and currently more and more countries implement their national action plans. Secondly, multiple zoonotic infectious diseases were on the agenda, like tuberculosis for example. Since 75% of infectious diseases originate from (either domesticated or wild) animals, vets play a crucial role in preventing transmission to humans. This brings us to the third topic: Health emergency preparedness, surveillance, and response. With Ebola and Zika we have learned how fast a disease outbreak can spread and threaten global health. A current threat is that of avian influenza in wild birds and poultry, which can become highly infectious to humans.
So although the WHO’s goal is to improve and protect human health, vet students and vets can contribute towards achieving this goal.
At the WHA we spoke to veterinarians working at the WHO, attended many plenary discussions and side events and strengthened our relations with IFMSA and IPSF. Also the new Director General was elected, the Ethiopian Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus will take over the position from Margaret Chan. It was a huge honour to attend the WHA and a great opportunity for our association. Our full report will be published in the next IVSA Veterinary Public Health Journal!