WHO Dialogue on NCDs, poverty & Development Cooperation

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Cancers, diabetes, heart and lung diseases threaten the lives of millions of people worldwide. The economic impacts on households and health systems are so large that, especially in low- and middle-income countries, NCDs pose major poverty and development challenges.

More than 12 million deaths from noncommunicable disease (NCD) occur between the ages of 30 and 70 in developing countries, which constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century. Premature deaths from NCDs in developing countries undermine social and economic development, threaten the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and may lead to increasing inequalities within and between countries and populations.

The World Health Organization has, for the first time, brought together philanthropic foundations, NGOS and the private sector to explore ways to include noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in post-2015 development cooperation agendas and initiatives, internationally agreed development goals, economic development policies, sustainable development frameworks and poverty reduction strategies.

“The weak capacities in developing countries to tackle NCDs result in premature deaths from NCDs, reduced productivity, curtailed economic growth, and trap the poorest people in chronic poverty,” Ambassador Taonga Mushayavanhu, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the UN in Geneva.

Reducing both poverty and the number of people dying prematurely – before the age of 70 – from NCDs was the focus of a high-level strategic dialogue held on 20-21 April 2015 in Geneva by the WHO. This Dialogue on NCDs, poverty and development cooperation was one of the meetings part of the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases  (GCM/NCD), where IFMSA as organization with official relations with WHO was invited to take part as a representative of the voice of young people in face of the worldwide epidemic of NCDs and for this occasion represented by the Liaison Officer for Public Health issues Arthur Mello.

The WHO GCM/NCD was established in response to the 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCDs, its scope and purpose is to facilitate and enhance the coordination of activities, multi-stakeholder engagement and action across sectors at the local, national, regional and global level to prevent and control NCDs in line with the WHO Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020.

The Dialogue engaged Member States, other United Nations agencies, and representatives from academia, NGOs and the private sector in the first-ever dialogue on tackling the connected issues of NCDs, poverty and development cooperation.

IFMSA contributed to the dialogue raising the importance of an explicit focus on youth to achieve the objectives of the Global NCD Action Plan 2013-2020. Highlighting that the prevalence of NCDs is related to unhealthy behaviors and practices typically initiated in adolescents, which will have a direct effect on their risk of developing NCDs later in life. Building a healthier future depends on effective interventions during this critical window of opportunity.

Another important topic addressed by IFMSA was the necessity of improvements on the analysis of risk factors among youth, once this can give us more resources about their future influence on the burden of NCDs and help governments to develop more policies and programs focused to mitigate those risks and promote healthy lifestyles.

Although NCDs affect many young people from different parts of the world and with different realities of access to health, most prevention measures are not targeted towards this age group. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the young people from the present are the ones who are going bear the consequences of inefficient actions on the burden of NCDs in the future.  IFMSA will continue to advocate for effective measures towards the relation NCDS/Youth in all NCDs policy discussions and make sure that we are all following a safe and healthy path.

Entry written by Arthur Mello, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues. Contact him at lph@ifmsa.org. 

Report from WONCA Rural Health Conference 2015

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This year, from 14th to 18th of April I had a chance to participate in the 12th World Rural Health Conference organized by WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WWPRP) held in beautiful and historical city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The conference welcomed more than thousand rural health practitioners from around the globe and many other members of WONCA. WONCA (World Organization of Family Doctors) is one of IFMSA institutional partners and an organization that has membership of around 500,00 family doctors from every corner of the world.

Rural and remote health is the interdisciplinary study of health and health care delivered in rural and or remote areas. It’s one of the most neglected areas of health care currently going through big human resources and recruitment crisis. While some countries have in place working plans that deal with involvement of students in rural health and afterwards offering promising careers in rural areas, most do not and face a big problem of understaffing and quality of care for the population living in the given area. During the conference different topics were tackled ranging from climate change and effect it has on rural area to recruitment of young doctors and students to rural area.

The role of IFMSA at the conference was to present views of medical students from our NMOs. Before the conference a survey on students interests on Primary Medicine and Rural Health was shared with our members. The results were presented afterwards at the conference workshop titled “Students’ Adventures in Rural Practice” and also during the scientific session, that took place after the main event. During this session, two members of WONCA Executive Board (Dr. Amanda Howe, president elect and Dr. Garth Manning, CEO) and the Chair of the Working party on Rural Medicine Dr. John Wynn-Jones came to participate and they got to hear our opinion on involvement of medical students in rural health, as well as the outcomes of our survey proving importance of medical students in solving of problems that rural health is faced with.

During the scientific sessions I presented outcomes of the survey to as many as 300 participants. Afterwards Dr. Bruce Chater, Head of Academic Discipline of Rural and Remote Medicine from the University of Queensland, Australia and chairman of the session congratulated us on the passion we have for the topic and stated, once again, that motivated medical students like us and young doctors play key role in future of rural health.

Before the conference, which officially started from the 15th of April, we were invited to participate at the pre-event, a meeting of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Health, where I participated in discussions on further involvement of medical students in future conferences and having medical students voice heard and acknowledged.

During the event I also had a chance to talk with the organizers of the WONCA World Rural Health conference taking place in Cairns, Australia about involvement of students into the conference and I was told how scholarships and grants will be available for students and that the organizers will try to involve as many students possible. They also tweeted how they are looking forward to having IFMSA and our members at the event in the future.

Rural Health is one of the topics that’s often left out of the medical curricula and while rural population accounts for 3,4 billion of the worlds population only selected medical schools have well elaborated curriculas on it. We as medical students must be involved in changing this and advocating for Rural Health to get same recognition and treatment as other global health problems. The future is in our hands and as keepers of this future we need to have an complete outlook on health and deal with every problem that arises be that in urban or rural area.
Entry written by Jozo Schmuch, European Regional Assistant for the Standing Committee on Public Health (SCOPH)

The Sendai Journey: Part 2

The road forward

” Enhance the resilience of national health systems, including by integrating disaster risk management into primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare, especially at the local level; developing the capacity of health workers in understanding disaster risk and applying and implementing disaster risk reduction approaches in health work; and promoting and enhancing the training capacities in the field of disaster medicine; and supporting and training community health groups in disaster risk reduction approaches in health programmes, in collaboration with other sectors, as well as in the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005) of the World Health Organization ” – Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

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IFMSA Delegation in the Sendai Framework for DRR Negotiations within the 2nd Arab Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction
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Post-2015 negotiations in United Nations Headquarter. It is crucial that the outcome of the Post-2015 Agenda recognise disaster risk reduction.

The 3rd UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) was not the end but the beginning, the beginning of enhanced actions on DRR. IFMSA already took the lead and expressed our Voluntary Commitments as an officially recognised outcome of the WCDRR. The Federation is now ready to take the next step from the hard work of policy design and focus on implementation. Hopefully the rest of the society will join us and take their responsibilities.

A handful of the stakeholders in the WCDRR have recognised the benefits of building the capacity of the future generation and have thereby included youth as a section in their voluntary commitments. This will result in enhanced investments in enhancing the capacity of the coming generation to take action on DRR.

The outcome of the negotiations consist of the so called Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction, which is based upon multi stakeholders negotiations and consultations the last year. IFMSA have been part of this process and contributed to create this international document that will guide investment and actions on DRR for the coming 15 years. The next step, facilitated by the UNISDR (United Nations Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction) is to create a Means of Implementation (MoI) to guide the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Action, as well as indicators to assist in the monitoring. So far IFMSA and the Major Group for Children and Youth have not been welcomed to be part of this process. The UNISDR and the co-chair for WCDRR did not provide a transparent and inclusive process of its creation, but kept it looked to handpicked stakeholders. We hope that they will listen to us and let us back into the room. The indicators and the MoI is amongst all what will be used in the everyday life cross sectionally throughout the world.

Important to remembers is thought that the Sendai Framework for DRR is the first milestone in the Post2015 Agenda. We have three larger process in front of us still to be finalised and adopt a new international framework – the Finance for Development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the new Climate Change Framework. In order to reach the sustainable world we aim for, it is crucial to recognize DRR in these frameworks as well. IFMSA will continue to act through the UN MGCY in order to ensure that our policies are heard and implemented in the outcome documents of these processes. You are welcome to join our collaborative efforts!

The entry was written by IFMSA Project Support Director Liljana Lukic, bvmd Germany members Christopher Schürmann and Philipp Münzert, IFMSA Egypt members Majid Shangab and Aia Raafat, IFMSA-China member Wing Sum Li, AMSA USA member Leo Lopez, CIMSA ISMKI member Dhiya Khoirunnisa, AMSA Singapore member Val Tan, IFMSA-Sweden member Anna Theresia Ekman and IFMSA Liaison Officer for Human Rights & Peace Moa M Herrgård.

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IFMSA Voluntary Commitments
for the Sendai Framework for DRR

  1. Increase knowledge and build capacity among future medical professionals on how to manage risk and challenges for public health in disaster prevention, preparedness, response and recovery, including medical, public health and humanitarian dimension of disasters and complex-security environments. ‘
  2. INcrease knowledge and build capacity among future medical professionals about medical ethics in complex–security environments, International Humanitarian Law, the Declaration of Human Rights including the Right to Health and the medical professional behavior important for ensuring healthy equality, access to services and people-centered care before, during and after disasters.
  3. Equip medical students with skills and knowledge in order to communicate their priorities in development of international and national policy, and to advocate for inclusion and strengthening of Disaster Risk Reduction in the medical curriculum.
  4. Take common actions and strengthen collaboration with governments and other stakeholders and actors on interdisciplinary platforms and events to improve disaster risk reduction and reduce risks to people’s health.

The full text of the IFMSA Voluntary Commitment to Sendai Framework for DRR can be found here: http://issuu.com/ifmsa/docs/ifmsa_voluntarycommitments_ddr