ALERT – World Health Assembly Day 3: getting moving. | May 26, 2016

Join Handicap International’s Antony Duttine (@antduttine) and Davide Olchini as they blog from the World Health Assembly, taking place in Geneva this week May 23-27. The middle of the World Health Assembly and we still await the arrival of many of the key agenda items which are of interest to us. Ageing, health workforce, violence, […]

Join Handicap International’s Antony Duttine (@antduttine) and Davide Olchini as they blog from the World Health Assembly, taking place in Geneva this week May 23-27.

The middle of the World Health Assembly and we still await the arrival of many of the key agenda items which are of interest to us. Ageing, health workforce, violence, road safety, and noncommunicable diseases have all been pushed back to the latter half of the week. Add to that a French train strike, meaning Davide could not get into Geneva until midday and there was somewhat of a void.

© G. Dubourthoumieu / Handicap International
© G. Dubourthoumieu / Handicap International

That’s not to say we were quiet, however. Far from it. A lull in action on the debate floor gives plenty of opportunity for one on one meetings, more active participation in side events and space to catch up on activities and plan for the days to come.

At lunchtime, a session on physical activity involved “active” participation – audience members were encouraged to stand and clap between presentations and questions and a mid-way exercise break was performed.  In between the fun, some somber realizations – despite better guidance and policy on physical activity, we are getting more and more sedentary.  It is now estimated that 80% of the world’s adolescents are insufficiently physically active and physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

We heard from the panel of speakers how fear of injury is causing parents in Canada to keep children indoors, rather than allowing them to play outside. In the US, rates of obesity continue to increase as physical activity declines, despite efforts to engage the public with high profile campaigns such as Michelle’ Obama’s Lets Move (though there was some improvement in young children).  Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO announced that she takes a daily lunchtime walk (followed by a “power nap”).

Frustratingly, the issue of what role rehabilitation professionals, and particularly physical therapists could and should play in promoting activities was not addressed despite two specific questions on the issue from the audience.  The World Confederation of Physical Therapy has been

very clear in positioning PT as a leading health profession for promoting physical activity, yet the question seemed to leave the panel stumped. This lack of recognition of rehab professionals role in promoting health and wellbeing for all is all too common and was extremely enlightening in how far we still need to go to put rehabilitation on the global health agenda.

© Dan Giannopoulos / Handicap International
© Dan Giannopoulos / Handicap International

At the end of the day came a series of side events covering what felt like a full life course – maternal, newborn and child health; adolescent health; and ageing &ageism all provided interesting subject matter.  Remark of the day came from the ageing session where a panelist suggested that the much celebrated Every Woman Every Child campaign should be renamed to Every Fertile Woman Every child since it largely forgets to consider the needs of older women.  Certainly food for thought.


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