Feature story

World Health Assembly to discuss International Health Regulations and MDG

17 May 2010

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Credit: WHO/Jesse Hoffmann

The 63rd World Health Assembly, the gathering of the decision-making body of World Health Organization (WHO), opened in Geneva today. Health Ministers and officials from across the world will meet until 21 May 2010 to discuss the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR).

There are 194 countries across the globe, including all the member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) who are State Parties to the IHR, a binding, international legal instrument. The aim of these global rules is to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.

The IHR, for example, require countries to report certain disease outbreaks and public health events to WHO and also to strengthen their existing capacities for public health surveillance and response.

This year’s World Health Assembly will also focus on monitoring the achievements of the health-related Millennium Development Goals. In the year 2000, 189 countries committed their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty. They set out a series of targets to be reached by 2015. These have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and include halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV and providing universal primary education.

The World Health Assembly is attended by delegations from all WHO member states yearly to focus on specific health agenda. Last year’s Assembly focused considerable attention on the widespread outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) and the most effective responses to the potential pandemic, including preparedness, access to vaccines and sharing of influenza viruses.