October 5, 2023

WMA urges govts to move beyond political declarations to secure global health security

WMA urges govts to move beyond political declarations to secure global health security

By Chioma Obinna

President of the World Medical Association, (WMA), Dr Osahon Enabulele, has stressed the need for global health security through the building of more resilient health systems and health workforce.

The President also called on political leaders and governments worldwide to move beyond non-binding political declarations to real commitments through visible and practical actions.

Enabulele spoke on Thursday while delivering the opening remarks at the scientific session of the 74th General Assembly of the World Medical Association, jointly organised by the Rwanda Medical Association and the World Medical Association in Kigali.

He noted that global health security became necessary following the spread of new, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, the impact of globalised trade and travel, including cross-border movements of animals, the health impact of climate change, and the rising trend of antimicrobial resistance.

Enabulele said: “Global Health Security entails building resilient health systems with an integrated robust physician-led multi-disciplinary primary health care system, and an effective diagnostic and surveillance capacity.”

He further explained that it also involves building resilient health systems that are inclusive, adaptive, efficient, effective, and meet present expectations and address current and future challenges such as weak health systems, brain drain and burn-out of physicians as well as other health professionals, Antimicrobial resistance, and Climate change.

He said: “Importantly, Global health security entails expanding universal access to care and building a resilient health workforce that is highly resourced, healthy and motivated, with decent, safe and enabling working conditions.

“It therefore requires sustained investments in all the building blocks of the health system, including health infrastructure, medicines, diagnostics, vaccines, health management information and surveillance systems”

He also added that good governance and the right political commitment to the health and well-being of citizens were required to achieve global health security.

Enabulele who also appreciated efforts at developing a post-COVID-19 Pandemic treaty and the recently endorsed political declaration on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, called on political leaders and governments across the world to move beyond mere non-binding political declarations to real commitments through visible and practical actions by governments.

“We also need to continually emphasise the critical place of the health workforce in such declarations.

“The above notwithstanding, I wish to state that unless and until there is a move towards a more sincere address of the widening health inequalities, inequities, and disparities across the world, with the promotion of an inclusive and equitable world, the search for Global Health Security may be in vain.

“A critical example of inequity in resource allocation is the case of health workforce shortages across the world. The burgeoning phenomenon of burnout and brain drain of physicians and other health professionals is one that needs accelerated global attention if Global Health Security is to be achieved, particularly in the low-middle-income countries of the world,” he stated.

Noting that estimates by the World Health Organisation that by 2030, the world will be in need of about 10 million more healthcare workers, he lamented that a lot of these deficits would be in the Low and Middle-Income Countries, (LMIC) countries.

Continuing he queried: “How can the world address this unfortunate inequitable situation through effective management of the push and pull factors, with governments on both sides of the divide made to adopt an ethical consensus with responsible management of health workforce shortages?

“How can governments be made to invest more in the welfare, working and living conditions of physicians and other health professionals? Can the governments be taken to account, in terms of their adherence to minimum benchmark expectations?”

He recalled the vaccine nationalism and inequity that manifested itself during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving behind citizens of most of the developing countries, with negative knock-on effects on Global Health Security.

He said the outrage that trailed the unfortunate inequity in resource allocation reinforced the saying that ‘no one is safe until everyone is safe’.

He said: “If Global Health Security must be attained, this saying must be reckoned with not only in words but in concrete action. In this regard, the frontiers of global cooperation and global solidarity must be continually oiled and advanced.”

Speaking on the unending conflicts and wars like the Russia-Ukraine war, he argued that it was necessary significant at engendering Global Health Security.

“We must therefore sustain our call for a cessation of this and other senseless conflicts and wars around the world,” he stated.