*** This September we were lucky to have one of our wonderful SfGH members and SfGH Cambridge Co-President, Kim van Daalen, attending the World Health Organisation’s Regional Committee for Europe Meeting in ROME!! As part of an IFMSA delegation, she had an incredible time taking part in important discussions about key Global Health issues and making our youth voice heard! Read on for a fantastic summary of the key highlights from her experience! ***


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A look behind the scenes – a short representation of key events during the WHO RC68

In this blog, I will try to give you a short summary of all the ground-breaking events that took place during this regional committee session and share a bit of my personal experience. If you want to know more about what it means to be part of an IFMSA delegation to external meetings, you are always free to contact me!

“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present. “ – Marcus Aurelius

A week ago 519 registered participants from 53 Member States, 17 Ministers, 12 Director-Generals for Health, 7 Secretaries of State, 1 Deputy Prime Minister as well as partner organizations and civil society took part in the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Rome 17-20 September 2018 to discuss key global health issues.

The Regional Committee is the decision-making body of the WHO European Region. These annual sessions are focussed on formulating regional policies, supervising WHO’s activities, commenting on the regional part of the WHO budget and every five years nominating the Regional Director for Europe.

As one of the few youth organisations in official relations with the WHO, the IFMSA seeks to bring the perspective of youth and future healthcare professionals into negotiations. IFMSA was this year represented by the Regional Director for Europe and a delegation of IFMSA members from all over Europe (Bulgaria, Norway, Germany, Austria, Lithuania, France and the United Kingdom).

The technical health issues on the agenda included a diversity of topics as;

  • advancing public health in the WHO European Region for sustainable development;
  • the affordability of healthcare: new evidence on financial protection in Europe;
  • implementing the regional framework for surveillance and control of invasive mosquito vectors and re-emerging vector-borne Diseases;
  • the vaccine action plan of the European region;
  • the impact of the WHO reform on the work of the WHO European Region;
  • accreditation of the regional non-State actors to the WHO Regional Committee for Europe;
  • and the first strategy on the health and well-being of men.

You can find all the documentation of the meeting here: click here. Some highlights of the points mentioned will be described below as well!  Based on IFMSA’s policy documents the delegation prepared several statements to advocate on IFMSA’s stances which can be read here: click here and are even recorded: click here!

Realising the European Vaccine Action Plan (EVAP) 2015-2020

At the second and third day of the meeting, Dr Nedret Emiroglu presented mixed outcomes of a midterm review of the progress towards to goals described in EVAP. He indicated that although the region is on track with its polio-free status, the region won’t achieve measles and rubella elimination by 2020 and is falling short on immunization coverage. Something that is visible in the current large outbreaks (with fatalities) ongoing in countries that had previously eliminated measles or interrupted endemic transmission in Europe. As it should be the right of every child to live free from vaccine-preventable disease, the IFMSA urged Member States to develop and sustain strong immunization programs equipped with adequate resources available to all.

Strategy and report on the health and well-being of men

“ The question is, why is the health sector not reaching these men, why do men smoke more, drink more, drive faster and eat more salt?”

Ms Isabel Yordi Anguirre presented the first ever (described as ground-breaking) strategy and report on the health and well-being of men in the European Region promoting a gender-sensitive approach to health and human rights. The report aimed to undercover patterns behind health behaviour to i) reduce mortality among men ii) reduce inequalities across men across the Region regarding physical health, mental health and well-being iii) and to improve gender equality by engaging men in e.g. fatherhood, unpaid care, self-care.

Launch of the European Health Report 2018 – shifting towards “evidence for all”

The European Region has passed the half-way point of the Health 2020 implementation period, on track to achieve the target of reducing premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases as described in the 2018 report. However, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, overweight and obesity remain major public health problems in the region, giving significant reason for concern. Furthermore, most progress us uneven varying highly between and within countries, between sexes and across different generations. The report presented reflected an ongoing shift to the use of subjective experiences and social-cultural drivers in addition to quantitative data.

Accreditation of regional non-State actors

More than 100 representatives of non-State actors participated in this RC68, which was the highest number ever. During the whole meeting, the IFMSA underscored the importance of partnership between the WHO’s Regional Practise and civil society, specifically youth. The moment when 19 regional non-State actors not in official relations with the WHO were accredited to attend future Regional Committee sessions, was, therefore, one of the highlights of the meeting. This was the first time the procedure in line with the global Framework of engagement with non-State actors was implemented.

Meaningful youth participation

“ Imagine what youth could achieve if they would have the full support of their governments and meaningful inclusion in all processes that affect them?”

The IFMSA believes that inclusive youth engagement processes are of utmost importance on all levels of development, therefore one of the important advocacy points was meaningful youth participation. Changes we make today have the biggest impact on future generations; most of the risk factors causing NCD-related deaths start in adolescence, suicide remains a leading cause of death among people aged 15-29 and the effects of climate change take the biggest toll on the health of youth. The IFMSA encouraged all States to include youth in their delegations which was embraced with open arms by several Member States!

“Youth will be the ones to implement this new declaration. We invite you to include youth delegates in your governmental delegations.” – Kazakhstan on the Almaty2018

Some last remarks

Being part of an IFMSA delegation gives you the ideal opportunity to experience high-level meetings from up close while advocating for those issues we are all passionate about as Global Health Advocates. It is amazingly empowering to have gained first-hand experience discussing directly with Member States, NGOs and civil society the stances of the IFMSA. Excited after reading all of this? You don’t need any particular experience to become part of a delegation (you will learn everything during the preparation months/weeks!), so don’t shy away and sign up!

Would you like to find out more about the WHO RC68, you can read all about it here.

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