COVID-19 significantly impacts health services for noncommunicable diseases

1 month ago

GENEVA - Prevention and treatment services for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have been severely disrupted since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a WHO survey released today. The survey, which was completed by 155 countries during a 3-week period in May, confirmed that the impact is global, but that low-income countries are most affected.

This situation is of significant concern because people living with NCDs are at higher risk of severe COVID-19-related illness and death.

“The results of this survey confirm what we have been hearing from countries for a number of weeks now,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have not been receiving the health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s vital that countries find innovative ways to ensure that essential services for NCDs continue, even as they fight COVID-19.”

Service disruptions are widespread

The main finding is that health services have been partially or completely disrupted in many countries. More than half (53%) of the countries surveyed have partially or completely disrupted services for hypertension treatment; 49% for treatment for diabetes and diabetes-related complications; 42% for cancer treatment, and 31% for cardiovascular emergencies. 

Rehabilitation services have been disrupted in almost two-thirds (63%) of countries, even though rehabilitation is key to a healthy recovery following severe illness from COVID-19.

Reassignment of staff and postponing of screening

In the majority (94%) of countries responding, ministry of health staff working in the area of NCDs were partially or fully reassigned to support COVID-19.

The postponement of public screening programmes (for example for breast and cervical cancer) was also widespread, reported by more than 50% of countries. This was consistent with initial WHO recommendations to minimize non-urgent facility-based care whilst tackling the pandemic.

But the most common reasons for discontinuing or reducing services were cancellations of planned treatments, a decrease in public transport available and a lack of staff because health workers had been reassigned to support COVID19 services. In one in five countries (20%) reporting disruptions, one of the main reasons for discontinuing services was a shortage of  medicines, diagnostics and other technologies.

Unsurprisingly, there appears to be a correlation between levels of disruption to services for treating NCDs and the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak in a country.  Services become increasingly disrupted as a country moves from sporadic cases to community transmission of the coronavirus.

Globally, two-thirds of countries reported that they had included NCD services in their national COVID-19 preparedness and response plans; 72% of high-income countries reported inclusion compared to 42% of low-income countries. Services to address cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease were the most frequently included. Dental services, rehabilitation and tobacco cessation activities were not as widely included in response plans according to country reports.

Seventeen percent of countries reporting have started to allocate additional funding from the government budget to include the provision of NCD services in their national COVID-19 plan.

Alternative strategies for continuing care being implemented

Encouraging findings of the survey were that alternative strategies have been established in most countries to support the people at highest risk to continue receiving treatment for NCDs. Among the countries reporting service disruptions, globally 58% of countries are now using telemedicine (advice by telephone or online means) to replace in-person consultations; in low-income countries this figure is 42%. Triaging to determine priorities has also been widely used, in two-thirds of countries reporting. 

Also encouraging is that more than 70% of countries reported collecting data on the number of COVID-19 patients who also have an NCD.

”It will be some time before we know the full extent of the impact of disruptions to health care during COVID-19 on people with noncommunicable diseases,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO. “What we know now, however, is that not only are people with NCDs more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus, but many are unable to access the treatment they need to manage their illnesses. It is very important not only that care for people living with NCDs is included in national response and preparedness plans for COVID-19 -̶  but that innovative ways are found to implement those plans . We must be ready to “build back better”  ̶  strengthening health services so that they are better equipped to prevent, diagnose and provide care for NCDs in the future, in any circumstances.”

Editor’s note

Noncommunicable diseases kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Each year, 15 million people die from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; more than 85% of these "premature" deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. 

 

Statement from Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme at the Yemen High-level Pledging Conference

1 month ago

(Thank you Mark, Shukran Dr. Al Rabeeah)

I am speaking today on behalf of WHO Director-General Dr Tedros, and of Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, salam aleikum, 

As we all know, Yemen is the most complex humanitarian operation in the world.  

Indeed, when Dr Al-Mandhari  - who is also participating in this event - visited Yemen last year, he saw parents who were desperate to find help for their sick children; an elderly man die before his eyes as doctors tried to save him, and he met  the son of one doctor who died of cholera while treating patients with the disease. 

The situation has since become much worse. But in spite of it all, for the past five years, WHO and our partners have stood with the people of Yemen.

When the world’s largest cholera outbreak hit, we together reversed the cycle of disease, protecting more than 10 million people. When measles threatened, we together vaccinated over 12 million children. 

When severe acute malnutrition spread, WHO and our partner MED-COM supported 80% of all therapeutic feeding centers, saving 91% of all children suffering from medical complications. And as more people face death and disease, WHO and partners are supporting 70% of all medical consultations in the country.

And we did it all thanks to your generous support.

But today, COVID-19 has pushed Yemen over the edge, with many health workers on the front line frustrated and bereft. In fact, one physician in the Kuwait Hospital in Sana’a, recently said that he is “exhausted by war and politics, exhausted by rumors and ignorance, and exhausted by greed and poverty.”

And yet, in spite of enormous constraints, this physician and other courageous and committed individuals continue to serve their people every day.

And so will WHO and our partners.  We will continue to equip, upgrade and expand the number of isolation centers to 59 across the whole country. We will continue to establish and equip EOCs, train health care workers and rapid response teams moving from over 300 to over 900 response teams in the coming weeks. We will continue to educate communities, and expand testing, all the while ensuring the continuity of other essential health services.

Last week alone, through the COVID Supply Chain Platform WHO and WFP airlifted over 34,000 kilograms of medicines and medical supplies including over 6.5 tons of COVID-19 PPE and laboratory diagnostics to support the functional labs that we have supported for COVID diagnosis. This week we are preparing another round of over 7 tons of PPE and 18 tons of medicines to support Yemen.

And we will continue to do everything we can to serve the people of Yemen, even as COVID-19 rages. But we need a massive scale-up of our COVID and non-COVID health operations to assist some of the most vulnerable population in the world.  

We recognize in a world where everyone is trying to respond to their own health crisis it is a challenge to maintain critical support to others. But in this global crisis we must recognize that there are communities and people who are even more at risk and even more vulnerable.

We will be judged by how we serve those who have the least. We will be judged by how we ease the suffering of those who suffer most and we will be judged by how we help those who are helpless.

We need peace for health and if we have that peace, we can succeed with our partners to deliver health for peace.

International community rallies to support open research and science to fight COVID-19

1 month ago
WHO and Costa Rica launch landmark COVID-19 Technology Access Pool

Thirty countries and multiple international partners and institutions have signed up to support the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) an initiative aimed at making vaccines, tests, treatments and other health technologies to fight COVID-19 accessible to all.

The Pool was first proposed in March by President Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica, who joined WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today at the official launch of the initiative. 

“The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool will ensure the latest and best science benefits all of humanity,” said President Alvarado of Costa Rica. “Vaccines, tests, diagnostics, treatments and other key tools in the coronavirus response must be made universally available as global public goods”. 

“Global solidarity and collaboration are essential to overcoming COVID-19,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Based on strong science and open collaboration, this information-sharing platform will help provide equitable access to life-saving technologies around the world.” 

The COVID-19 (Technology) Access Pool will be voluntary and based on social solidarity. It will provide a one-stop shop for scientific knowledge, data and intellectual property to be shared equitably by the global community. 

The aim is to accelerate the discovery of vaccines, medicines and other technologies through open-science research, and to fast-track product development by mobilizing additional manufacturing capacity. This will help ensure faster and more equitable access to existing and new COVID-19 health products. 

There are five key elements to the initiative:

  • Public disclosure of gene sequences and data;
  • Transparency around the publication of all clinical trial results;
  • Governments and other funders are encouraged to include clauses in funding agreements with pharmaceutical companies and other innovators about equitable distribution, affordability and the publication of trial data;
  • Licensing any potential treatment, diagnostic, vaccine or other health technology to the Medicines Patent Pool - a United Nations-backed public health body that works to increase access to, and facilitate the development of, life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries.
  • Promotion of open innovation models and technology transfer that increase local manufacturing and supply capacity, including through joining the Open Covid Pledge and the Technology Access Partnership (TAP).

With supportive countries across the globe, C-TAP will serve as a sister initiative to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and other initiatives to support efforts to fight COVID-19 worldwide.

WHO, Costa Rica and all the co-sponsor countries have also issued a “Solidarity Call to Action” asking relevant stakeholders to join and support the initiative, with recommended actions for key groups, such as governments, research and development funders, researchers, industry and civil society.

WHO and Costa Rica co-hosted today’s launch event, which began with a high-level session addressed by the WHO Director-General and President Alvarado in addition to Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and Aksel Jacobsen, State Secretary, Norway. There were video statements by President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador; President Thomas Esang Remengesau Jr. of Palau; Michelle Bachelet United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Jagan Chapagain Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; and Retno Marsudi Minister for Foreign Affairs for Indonesia. Leaders from across the UN, academia, industry and civil society joined for a moderated discussion.

To date, the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool is now supported by the following countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Indonesia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mozambique, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, South Africa, Sri Lanka,Sudan, The Netherlands, Timor-Leste, Uruguay, Zimbabwe

Other international organizations, partners and experts have also expressed support to the initiative and others can join them using the website.

Note to Editors:

The Solidarity Call to Action follows from numerous international commitments, including: Global Sustainable Development Goal 3, target 3b;  The WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPA- PHI) and the WHO Roadmap for access to medicines, vaccines and health products 2019-2023; the UN General Assembly Resolution on “International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19” (A/RES/74/274); and the 73rd World Health Assembly Resolution on the “COVID-19 response” (WHA73.1).

To access the event: https://who.zoom.us/j/99683467690 - Password: WHO%OMS27

WHO and UNHCR join forces to improve health services for refugees, displaced and stateless people

1 month 1 week ago

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today signed a new agreement to strengthen and advance public health services for the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world.

The agreement updates and expands an existing 1997 agreement between the two organizations. A key aim this year will be to support ongoing efforts to protect some 70 million forcibly displaced people from COVID-19. Around 26 million of these are refugees, 80 per cent of whom are sheltered in low and middle-income countries with weak health systems. Another 40 million internally displaced people also require assistance.

 For more than 20 years, UNHCR and WHO have worked together worldwide to safeguard the health of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. They have collaborated to provide health services to refugees in every region - from the onset of an emergency and through protracted situations, consistently advocating for the inclusion of refugees and stateless people in the national public health plans of host countries.

Today, the two organizations are working side by side to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that forcibly displaced people can access the health services they need, to keep safe from COVID-19 and other health challenges.

“UNHCR’s long-term partnership with WHO is critical to curb the coronavirus pandemic and other emergencies – day in, day out, it is improving and saving lives of millions of people forced to flee their homes,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. “Our strengthened partnership will directly benefit refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people, and those who are stateless. It leads to better emergency response and will make the best use of the resources of both our two organizations for public health solutions across all our operations globally.”

"The principle of solidarity and the goal of serving vulnerable people underpin the work of both our organizations," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "We stand side by side in our commitment to protect the health of all people who have been forced to leave their homes and to ensure that they can obtain health services when and where they need them. The ongoing pandemic only highlights the vital importance of working together so we can achieve more."

During Thursday’s signing UNHCR also joined the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The Fund was launched on 13 March and has so far raised $214m to date. The Fund, first-of-its-kind, allows individuals, companies, and organizations all over the world to directly contribute to the global response being led by WHO to help countries prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19.

A $10 million contribution from the Solidarity Response Fund will support UNHCR’s work on urgent needs such as risk communication and community engagement around hygiene practices; provision of hygiene and medical supplies and the establishment of isolation units in countries such as Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, South Sudan and Uganda.The funds will also support innovative global preparedness activities.

“By joining forces with the Solidarity Response Fund, UNHCR can work together on the ground with WHO to better ensure that the preparedness, prevention and public health response measures to COVID-19 are in place and that much-needed aid can reach refugees, displaced people and their host communities,” said Grandi.

For more information on UNHCR's COVID-19 operations

For information about WHO's COVID-19 operations and work on Refugee and Migrant Health

 

Solidarity Response Fund

The Fund was launched at WHO’s request by the UN Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation in mid-March and it is only way for companies and individuals to contribute directly to the work of WHO and partners on the ground, and the fastest way to get resources where they are needed most urgently. More than $100m from the Fund has already been disbursed, ensuring early vital work in the long fight against the pandemic.

 

UNHCR

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance like shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.

UNHCR is taking measures to help respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and prevent further spread. Working together with governments, UNHCR ensures refugees are included in national health response plans and are well-informed on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, have access to soap and clean water, and continue to receive the life-saving aid and assistance they need.

 

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.

For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedInTikTokPinterestSnapchatYouTube

 

World Food Safety Day 2020: UN experts in Facebook live event on 5 June 2020

1 month 1 week ago

On 7 June 2020, the United Nations will mark the second global World Food Safety Day, led by two of its specialized agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Food safety is a shared responsibility, and everyone has a role to play including governments, industry, producers, business operators and consumers. This is reflected in the theme of the day ‘Food safety: everyone’s business!’

FAO and WHO are supporting their Members in efforts to provide enough safe food for all and to enable people to trust that what they eat is safe. Events such as World Food Safety Day help by highlighting the critical role played by all those who work to ensure that they are not derailed by disruptions and other challenges to continue keeping foods safe.

On Friday, 5 June, ahead of World Food Safety Day 2020, FAO and WHO will hold a virtual celebration including video messages from FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The event will include an interactive Facebook live session in which FAO and WHO experts will discuss the theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day, including how governments, producers, manufacturers, consumers and vendors alike can ensure food safety.

The current global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized more than ever before the importance of monitoring and addressing food safety. It has also highlighted the need for food safety systems to be adapted to respond to disruptions in supply chains and ensure continued access to safe food.

World Food Day 2020 is dedicated to all those who have ensured that the crisis has not interrupted supply chains and that safe food remains available, contributing to the consumption of safe and healthy diets.

What:World Food Safety Day 2020 - FAO/WHO event on WHO’s Official Facebook pageWho:WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (video message) QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General (video message) Dr Francesco Branca, Director, WHO Department of Nutrition and Food Safety Dr Sarah Cahill, Codex Alimentarius, Senior Food Standards OfficerWhen:Friday, 5 June 2020, 15:00-15:45 (CET)


Record number of countries contribute data revealing disturbing rates of antimicrobial resistance

1 month 1 week ago

Geneva—A record number of countries are now monitoring and reporting on antibiotic resistance - marking a major step forward in the global fight against drug resistance. But the data they provide reveals that a worrying number of bacterial infections are increasingly resistant to the medicines at hand to treat them.

“As we gather more evidence, we see more clearly and more worryingly how fast we are losing critically important antimicrobial medicines all over the world,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). “These data underscore the importance both of protecting the antimicrobials we have and developing new ones, to effectively treat infections, preserve health gains made in the last century and ensure a secure future.”

Since the WHO’s Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS) report in 2018, participation has grown exponentially. In only three years of existence, the system now aggregates data from more than 64 000 surveillance sites with more than 2 million patients enrolled from 66 countries across the world. In 2018 the number of surveillance sites was 729 across 22 countries.

More countries are also reporting on the recently approved indicator on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as part of the Sustainable Development Goal monitoring. “The enormous expansion of countries, facilities and patients covered by the new AMR surveillance system allows us to better document the emerging public health threat of AMR,” said Hanan Balkhy, Assistant Director-General for antimicrobial resistance at WHO .

High rates of resistance among antimicrobials frequently used to treat common infections, such as urinary tract infections or some forms of diarrhoea, indicate that the world is running out of effective ways to tackle these diseases. For instance, the rate of resistance to ciprofloxacin, an antimicrobial frequently used to treat urinary tract infections, varied from 8.4% to 92.9% in 33 reporting countries.

WHO is concerned that the trend will further be fueled by the inappropriate use of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence shows that only small proportion of COVID-19 patients need antibiotics to treat subsequent bacterial infections and the Organization has issued guidance not to provide antibiotic therapy or prophylaxis to patients with mild COVID-19 or to patients with suspected or confirmed moderate COVID-19 illness unless there is a clinical indication to do so.

Dr Balkhy, said: “We believe this clear guidance  on the use of antibiotics in the COVID-19 pandemic will both help countries tackle COVID-19 effectively  and prevent the emergence and transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in the context of the pandemic.”

WHO remains concerned by declining investment (including in the private sector) and lack of innovation in the development of new antimicrobial treatments - factors that are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections.

“We must bolster global cooperation and partnerships including between the public and private sectors to provide financial and non-financial incentives for the development of new and innovative antimicrobials, added Balkhy.

To support this effort, WHO has released two documents on target product profiles to guide development of new treatments for common resistant bacterial infections and an economic model that simulates the costs, risks, and possible return on investment of antibacterial drug development. 

 

New Ebola outbreak detected in northwest Democratic Republic of the Congo; WHO surge team supporting the response

1 month 1 week ago

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced today that a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease is occurring in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Équateur province. The announcement comes as a long, difficult and complex Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is in its final phase, while the country also battles COVID-19 and the world’s largest measles outbreak.

Initial information from the Ministry of Health is that six Ebola cases have so far been detected in Wangata, of which four have died and two are alive and under care. Three of these six cases have been confirmed with laboratory testing. It is likely more people will be identified with the disease as surveillance activities increase.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Although much of our attention is on the pandemic, WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.”

This is the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 11th outbreak of Ebola since the virus was first discovered in the country in 1976. The city of Mbandaka and its surrounding area were the site of Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 9th Ebola outbreak, which took place from May to July 2018.

“It’s happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response. Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighbouring countries we must act quickly.”

WHO is already on the ground in Mbandaka supporting the response to this outbreak, as part of capacity built during the 2018 outbreak. The team supported the collection and testing of samples, and reference to the national laboratory for confirmation. Contact tracing is underway. Work is ongoing to send additional supplies from North Kivu and from Kinshasa to support the government-led response. A further 25 people are expected to arrive in Mbandaka tomorrow. WHO is also working to ensure that essential health services are provided to communities despite these emergency events.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 10th outbreak of Ebola, in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces, is in its final stages. On 14 May 2020, the Ministry of Health began the 42-day countdown to the declaration of the end of that outbreak.

New outbreaks of Ebola are expected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo given the existence of the virus in an animal reservoir in many parts of the country.

 

Note to Editors - key figures

COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • As of 31 May 2020: 3195 cases have been reported, including 72 deaths.


Measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Since 2019: 369 520 measles cases and 6779 deaths have been reported.


Recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

11th outbreak: Mbandaka, Équateur province.

  • Ongoing. Declared on 1 June 2020.
  • 6 cases (3 confirmed, 3 probable). Of those, 4 people died and 2 are alive

 

10th outbreak: North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri provinces

  • Ongoing. Declared on 1 August 2018.
  • 3463 cases (3317 confirmed and 146 probable). Of these, 2280 people died and 1171 survived.

9th outbreak: Mbandaka, Équateur province.

  • Declared on 8 May 2018 and ended on 24 July 2018.
  • 54 cases (38 confirmed and 16 probable). Of those, 33 died and 21 survived.

 

The WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network Virtual Meeting

1 month 1 week ago
Following the postponement of the face to face Network meeting which had been planned for June, the WHO Network Secretariat and the Network Meeting Organizing Committee would like to invite Network Participants to an online event to learn more about the Network and to hear about plans for some online Network events taking place later in 2020.

COVID-19 intensifies the urgency to expand sustainable energy solutions worldwide

1 month 1 week ago
Despite accelerated progress over the past decade, the world will fall short of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030 unless efforts are scaled up significantly, reveals the new Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA) the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Basic Psychosocial Skills: A Guide for COVID-19 Responders

1 month 1 week ago
This Guide aims to help orient people supporting the COVID-19 response to integrate psychosocial support skills into their daily work, thereby making a difference to the well-being of people they come into contact with during the pandemic. More specifically, the guide is intended for health and social workers, emergency responders, people working in food stores, public transport, funeral parlours and pharmacies, employers and managers and people who are providing support to vulnerable family members or members of their community.

Maintaining essential health services: new operational guidance for the COVID-19 context

1 month 1 week ago

New guidance from the World Health Organization will help countries keep essential health services running whilst taking measures to keep people safe in the COVID-19 pandemic. Most health systems are facing challenges of increased demand for care of people with COVID-19, compounded by fear, misinformation and limitations on movement that disrupt the delivery of health care for all conditions. Countries must find ways to keep people safe and ensure the delivery of services such as emergency care for conditions like heart attacks and injury; immunization to prevent outbreaks; treatment for infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and tuberculosis; and screening and treatment for noncommunicable diseases like cancer and diabetes.           

Maintaining essential health services: operational guidance for the COVID-19 context recommends practical actions that countries can take at national, sub regional and local levels to reorganize and safely maintain access to high-quality, essential health services. It also outlines sample indicators for monitoring the maintenance of essential health services and describes considerations about when to stop and restart services as COVID-19 transmission waxes and wanes.

The guide outlines a set of basic principles and makes some practical recommendations for countries. These include:

  • Ensuring timely access to emergency care services 24 hours per day, 7 days per week
  • Adjusting governance and coordination mechanisms to support timely action
  • Ensuring infection prevention and control measures to guarantee safe service delivery.
  • Prioritizing essential services - identifying what can be delayed and what cannot; assessing what can be relocated to areas that are less affected by COVID-19; working out the particular needs of marginalized populations including indigenous peoples, sex workers, migrants and refugees.
  • Reassigning health workers from areas with low or zero COVID-19 transmission, or from places with excess capacity, to boost the workforce in hard-hit zones so that essential services can be maintained.
  • Maintaining the availability of essential medications, equipment and supplies by mapping lists of essential services to resource and through weekly reporting from major distribution points, such as hospitals and district stores, on critical products that may be at risk of shortage or other problems.
  • Removing financial barriers to access and fund public health by suspending payments or user fees at the point of care for essential health services for all patients, regardless of their insurance or citizenship status.
  • Disseminating information in local languages to prepare the public for changes in service delivery platforms using information sources trusted by the public and ensuring these sources are kept up to date about changes in essential service delivery and about available resources, such as hotlines.
  •  Shifting the delivery of some routine services to digital platforms (telemedicine) and establishing a mechanism for implementing electronic prescriptions (e-prescriptions) among public and private pharmacies and suppliers

The guidance provides specific advice on ways to meet some common health needs. Examples include mechanisms to decrease the volume of people visiting health centres through bulk prescriptions of medications and nutritional supplements and delivering at home for from drop-off points.

Other approaches include monitoring and outreach to people with existing conditions to ensure that they seek care that cannot be safely delayed, such as emergency care for heart attacks, sepsis or complications of pregnancy; auxiliary services, such as basic diagnostic imaging, laboratory and blood bank services.

The guidance outlines specific recommendations on adapting the ways vaccines are administered to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission while preventing outbreaks of other deadly diseases.

It also highlights ways to protect people who are particularly vulnerable to the direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic. These include interventions to protect older people from infection and mitigate the effects of social isolation; or alternatives to school-based delivery of services, such as nutritional supplementation, and activities to protect children from violence and keep them healthy at home when schools are closed. It also offers guidance on how mental health services be enhanced and strengthened in the pandemic context.

This new guidance will help decision-makers and managers at the national and subnational levels to ensure the continuity of essential health services in the context of COVID-19. 

This is an unprecedented coordinated effort within WHO across four divisions, 14 departments, and dozens of program units at WHO headquarters, all liaising with regional counterparts across the globe. 

 

Stop tobacco industry exploitation of children and young people

1 month 2 weeks ago

The World Health Organization is today launching a new kit for school students aged 13-17 to alert them to the tobacco industry tactics used to hook them to addictive products. Every year the tobacco industry invests more than USD 9 billion to advertise its products. Increasingly, it is targeting young people with nicotine and tobacco products in a bid to replace the 8 million people that its products kill every year.

This year’s WHO’s World No Tobacco Day campaign focuses on protecting children and young people from exploitation by the tobacco and related industry. The toolkit has a set of classroom activities including one that puts the students in the shoes of the tobacco industry to make them aware of how the industry tries to manipulate them into using deadly products. It also includes an educational video, myth-buster quiz, and homework assignments.

The toolkit exposes tactics such as parties and concerts hosted by the tobacco and related industries, e-cigarette flavours that attract youth like bubble-gum and candy, e-cigarette representatives presenting in schools, and product placement in popular youth  streaming shows.  

Even during a global pandemic, the tobacco and nicotine industry persist by pushing products that limit people’s ability to fight coronavirus and recover from the disease. The industry has offered free branded masks and delivery to your door during quarantine and has lobbied for their products to be listed as ‘essential’.

Smoking suffocates the lungs and other organs, starving them of the oxygen they need to develop and function properly. “Educating youth is vital because nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start before age 18. We want to provide young people with the knowledge to speak out against tobacco industry manipulation,” said Ruediger Krech, Director for Health Promotion at WHO.

Over 40 million young people aged 13-15 have already started to use tobacco. To reach Generation Z, WHO launched a TikTok challenge #TobaccoExposed and welcomed social media partners like Pinterest, Tinder, YouTube and TikTok to amplify messaging.

WHO calls on all sectors to help stop marketing tactics of tobacco and related industries that prey on children and young people:

  • Schools refuse any form of sponsorship and prohibit representatives from nicotine and tobacco companies from speaking to students
  • Celebrities and influencers reject all offers of sponsorship
  • Television and streaming services stop showing tobacco or e-cigarette use on screen
  • Social media platforms ban the marketing of tobacco and related products and prohibit influencer marketing
  • Government and financial sector divest from tobacco and related industries
  • Governments ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

Countries can protect children from industry exploitation by putting in place strict tobacco control laws, including regulating products like e-cigarettes that have already begun to hook a new generation of young people.

 

Corporate news releases, statements, and notes for media issued by the World Health Organization.