WHA: World Health Assembly

WHA: World Health Assembly

Committee Overview:

At the 1945 founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, the delegates from China and Brazil suggested the establishment of an international health organization that works within the UN’s jurisdiction. Though a number of health organizations existed, including the International Office of Public Hygiene and the Health Organization of the League of Nations, the end of World War II called for the creation of a ‘single worldwide intergovernmental health organization, within the general framework of the United Nations, which would not only assume responsibility for the work of the earlier bodies but have an extended role necessitated by the new problems arising of the war.’ Thus, the Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) was adopted on 7 April 1948 for the purpose of ‘providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.’ A number of guidelines were put into place to ensure the WHO functioned properly. For example, Article 70 of the WHO’s constitution stipulated the establishment of close relations between the World Health Organization and other inter-governmental organizations, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). After its constitution was adopted, the WHO ‘subsumed within its organizational structure the activities’ of the aforementioned global health organizations. The WHO takes direction from the World Health Assembly (WHA), an annual gathering of senior health officials from WHO member states. At the WHA, committees debate health matters and approve the texts of resolutions. In summary, the World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO.

Topic A: Addressing Mental Health in Urban and Metropolitan Areas

More than 80 percent of people experiencing mental health conditions (including individuals experiencing neurological and substance use disorders) are without any form of quality, affordable mental health care. The values and ideals held under SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and other initiatives such as The WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019–2023) have encouraged historically unprecedented efforts by the UN to address mental health as a foundational facet of overall good health. Urban areas, in particular, face a unique set of issues that complicate the feasibility of universally addressing mental health. Urban workplaces have been noted to be a hotspot of mental health detriments due to job stress, the risk of unemployment, and inadequate mental health resources. The workplace is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15-44—more likely than a motor vehicle accident or skin cancer. Additionally, the socio-economic landscape of urban centers makes it difficult to implement widespread reforms due to the differing levels of healthcare accessibility and cultural sensitivity for each member state. To address these discrepancies, delegates are expected to explore universal patterns of concerns facing the international community at large, while still considering the needs of individual geographic regions.

Topic B: Preventing Black Market Influence in Developing Healthcare Spheres

It is estimated that the black-market drug trade accounts for more than 10 percent of the global drug trade with the United States alone having 1,400 adverse events tied to counterfeit medications reported. The black market, especially in the sphere of healthcare is not only economically repressive for developing states, but dangerous as well. Many countries lack the security, state capacity, and accessibility to medical supplies to properly prevent black markets on their own. WHA must address deficits of medical professionals, supplies, and training. However, beyond increasing accessibility, international monitoring and policing must be more effective at discouraging the growth of black markets in developing healthcare spheres while still maintaining access to medication. Black markets often flourish when communities are burdened with high costs of healthcare, leaving them with no apparent choice but to turn to unregulated and potentially hazardous sources of insulin, vaccines, and other necessary medical needs. Moreover, the accessibility of organ procedures and the large number of patients needing transplants have led to the creation of the international organ trade. The international organ circuit has been flagged by WHO as a major health hazard, with shocking practices becoming more common like transplant tourism, a phenomenon where patients travel abroad to purchase organs for transplants. Overall, The World Health Assembly must strengthen universal regulations to hinder the proliferation of counterfeit drugs and medical materials, while generating revenue for conducting safer healthcare operations.

Committee Details