The seventy-sixth World Health Assembly is set to focus on “saving lives, driving health for all” as the World Health Organization (WHO) turns 75.
WHA76 will convene between May 21 to 30, 2023 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Movendi International is engaging at WHA76 through bilateral and coalition-driven advocacy, including during key events and on social media, as well as by providing key resources.
In close partnership with health promotion and NCDs risk factor prevention advocates around the world, Movendi International will be calling on WHO Member States and the WHO Secretariat to better mainstream alcohol harm and policy considerations into key topics of global health importance.
This year’s session of the World Health Assembly will determine the immediate and longer-term future of WHO, starting with the program budget for the next two years, key decisions about the sustainable financing of the Organization and changes put in place to improve WHO’s processes and accountability. Delegates will also deliberate about the critical role that WHO has in the Global Health Emergency Architecture.
WHA76 will review last year’s progress, accomplishments and challenges along with future priorities across the key pillars of WHO’s work: Universal Health Coverage, Emergencies, Promoting Health and Well-being.
Key discussions and decisions are expected on:
- A review of WHOs work in health emergencies, including the International Health Regulations and strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies;
- Strategies and global action on areas such as women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health, rehabilitation, universal health coverage and primary health care, traditional medicine, infection prevention and control, substandard and falsified medicines, health of refugees and migrants, non-communicable diseases, mental health, social determinants, nutrition and disabilities;
- Approval of the WHO Programme Budget for 2024-2025, including the decision to increase assessed contributions and other matters emanating from the Working Group on Sustainable Financing.
Daily Strategic roundtables will take place at lunch time from Monday to Saturday in Room XVIII. These events will host discussions among assembly delegates, partner agencies, representatives of civil society and WHO experts on public health priorities. Sessions run from May 22 to 27, from 13:00 to 14:15 CEST and can be followed online.
As WHO’s highest decision-making body, the World Health Assembly sets out the Organization’s policy and approves its budget. WHA is attended by delegations from all WHO 194 Member States.
The Health Assembly is open to registered and accredited Member States, Associate Members, Observers, invited representatives of the UN and other participating inter-governmental organizations and non-State actors, including Movendi International.
WHA76 will be webcast live from the WHO website.
The provisional agenda, preliminary timetable, Assembly documents and daily journal can be accessed here.
We will be closely following a host of topics to learn about WHO and Member States’ priorities, concerns, and best practices – and to contribute our expertise and evidence-based solutions.
At WHA76, Movendi International will engage in the following agenda items to mainstream alcohol harm and policy considerations and elevate the profile of alcohol as obstacle to multiple global health areas:
- Global strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016–2030),
- Universal health coverage
- Reorienting health systems to primary health care as a resilient foundation for universal health coverage and preparations for a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage’
- Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and mental health
- Draft updated menu of policy options and cost-effective interventions for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases
- Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies
- Strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience
- Well-being and health promotion
- Ending violence against children through health systems strengthening and multisectoral approaches
- Social determinants of health
After a lost decade for alcohol policy development since 2010, the unanimous adoption of the WHO Global Alcohol Action Plan at the World Health Assembly in 2022 was a landmark achievement.
One year into the implementation period of the Global Alcohol Action Plan, Movendi International uses the platform and opportunity of WHA76 to continue to build momentum and to help to accelerate action on alcohol as public health priority across multiple public and global health issues.
We advocate for better and more comprehensive recognition of alcohol harm as obstacle to reaching SDG targets in Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, in Universal health coverage, in NCDs prevention and control, in health emergency preparedness and response, in promoting societies of well-being, in ending violence against children, and in tackling social determinants of health.
Alcohol harm is a major obstacle to these seven public health topics that are on the agenda of WHA76.
And alcohol policy solutions are powerful catalysts for progress across these seven public health topics that are on the agenda of WHA76.
When women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health is protected, communities and societies thrive. But alcohol harm remains a major obstacle.
- Analysis shows that alcohol harms maternal and newborn health, jeopardizes SRHR, and fuels mental ill-health.
- Alcohol is the second leading risk factor for disease in the age group 10 to 24 years.
- And women bear a disproportionate burden of alcohol harm, often due to second-hand harm, such as violence.
- But alcohol companies are aggressively targeting children, adolescents, and women with alcohol marketing.
Movendi International encourages WHO and Member States to prioritize three strategic approaches:
- Conduct an impact assessment – including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder – of alcohol as obstacle to women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health,
- Implement alcohol policy solutions to advance the health of women, children, and adolescents, and
- Protect women, children, and adolescents from alcohol marketing.
Key advocacy asks: Universal health coverage – Reorienting health systems to primary health care as a resilient foundation for universal health coverage
Universal Health Coverage (UHC) from the perspective of alcohol policy means: the strength, the resilience, and the capacity of the health system to provide care to people as well as the capacity of societies to promote health and prevent harm. Well-funded, -equipped, and -functioning health system help alleviate suffering, protect people and communities, and promote public health.
But alcohol harm is massive and burdens health systems severely.
Alcohol drives over 400 varieties of illness and injury, as well as social harm. In these ways, alcohol harm is placing a considerable burden on healthcare and other social services.
- One example is India, where the government spends 1% of GDP on healthcare. At the same time, society loses 1.4% of GDP on costs due to alcohol harm.
- Another example is the OECD, where an average of 2.4% of health spending goes to dealing with the harm caused by alcohol consumption – and the figure is much higher in some countries. In addition, poor health due to alcohol consumption has detrimental consequences on labour participation and productivity.
- Implementation of the 4P Package promises savings of US$ 28 billion in health expenditure, according to Michele Cecchini, as per the Alcohol Issues Podcast episode 19. This is broadly equivalent to the current health spending in Israel or half the current health spending in Sweden.
- Tackling alcohol harm is an excellent investment, for every US$1 invested it yields a return of ca. $16.4 from the “Prevention Package”.
Costs due to pervasive alcohol harm undermine the strength, resilience, and capacity of health systems to provide care, prevent harm, and promote health.
That’s why alcohol policy in general and alcohol taxation in particular are powerful tools to help reach health for all by increasing fiscal space and reducing avoidable healthcare burden and spending.
- Funding people-centered primary healthcare through alcohol taxes is an important tool that needs to receive greater attention.
- Country best practices on how to improve health system functioning through alcohol policy exist and should be integral part of the UHC discussions going forward.
Key advocacy asks: Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, and mental health – Draft updated menu of policy options and cost-effective interventions for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases
Movendi International welcomes the scientific exercise of updating Appendix 3.
We ask that this scientific process also improves the alcohol policy language. The flawed concept of “harmful use of alcohol” should be replaced by more accurate terms. Strong evidence shows that there is no healthy or safe level of alcohol use.
The Appendix 3 update is a missed opportunity to improve the alcohol policy best buys and to better support Member States in using the most cost-effective interventions, such as age limit increases, opening hours reductions, and government-run alcohol retail monopolies.
Updating policy recommendations for Member States based on rigorous science is key for WHO’s normative leadership role. For alcohol policy the methodology and recommendation can still be improved. This matters because most countries are still off track to reach the global target of reducing per capita alcohol use by 10% until 2030.
Key advocacy asks: Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies – Strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience
Noncommunicable diseases, including cancer, mental health conditions, and their major risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco, increase the vulnerability of populations to pandemics.
The harm caused by NCDs risk factors, such as alcohol and tobacco, also burdens health systems and undermines health emergency preparedness and response.
A groundbreaking report showed in January 2021 how alcohol fueled the COVID-19 pandemic on individual and societal levels.
Alcohol is a risk factor for spreading infection and increasing risks of complications while also causing other medical and social problems that burden healthcare and other services.
Physiological impacts of alcohol weaken immune system functioning and affect a range of organs, thereby increasing the risk of viral infection, severity, recovery and long-term consequences.
Alcohol-centric social contexts have played a crucial role in ‘super-spreader’ events, amplifying the coronavirus outbreak early, and later driving the resurgence after initial control.
Alcohol use has played a crucial role in the transmission and propagation of the coronavirus pandemic with major social and economic implications.
Interactions between the consumption and/ or sale of alcohol and COVID-19 clearly represent a major public health challenge.
Alcohol harm impedes effective responses to the pandemic by healthcare systems pushed to the brink.
Alcohol contributes to over 400 varieties of illness and injury. On average, alcohol contributes to 20% of injuries and 11.5% of all non-injury emergency department presentations.
Movendi International encourages WHO and Member States to prioritize three strategic approaches:
- Increase domestic mobilisation and allocation of resources to address NCDs risk factors by accelerating implementation of the NCDs Best Buys, i.e., through taxation of alcohol and other unhealthy commodities; and
- Ensure access to essential health services across the continuum of care in emergencies, particularly for those at high risk and in vulnerable situations, such as people living with NCDs and in low-resource settings.
Solutions are available for WHO and governments to reduce the alcohol burden and prevent and mitigate health emergency effects through evidence-based alcohol policy measures. Especially through:
- Maintaining and improving alcohol policy solutions;
- Limiting alcohol availability and affordability and making use of evidence-based alcohol pricing policies;
- Ensure effective public health messaging on alcohol and health emergencies, such as COVID-19, from health authorities;
- Make clinical and treatment provisions for people experiencing all types of alcohol-related problems; and
- Increase access to mental health services, including online services.
Alcohol harm is a serious obstacle to achieving societies of wellbeing because the social, health, and economic harms caused by alcohol are so pervasive.
Therefore, Movendi International welcomes that the reduction of population-level alcohol use is included in what “well-being societies” are about.
But alcohol harm and policy should be addressed more substantively. The foundation of “wellbeing societies” is to maintain high levels of alcohol abstention and to work towards reducing the prevalence of alcohol use, making full use of the SAFER technical package.
We ask for more improvements across the framework’s strategic directions, such as:
- Better address the harm caused by alcohol to people and planet; and
- More clearly outline the need for and potential of pro-health taxes for health system strengthening and sustainability.
Key advocacy asks: Ending violence against children through health systems strengthening and multisectoral approaches
Movendi International appreciates the opportunity to help improve the work to end violence against children.
- We ask the Secretariat to recognize alcohol as major risk factor for violence against children.
- We ask that the Secretariat to close gaps, such as: the INPSPIRE package contains action on alcohol but the Secretariat report does not.
- We ask the Secretariat to support Member States to better help children growing up in households with alcohol use problems.
Movendi International members are concerned that alcohol is not included in the Global Initiative to Support Parents to prevent child maltreatment and optimize child development. There is a clear link between alcohol and child neglect, maltreatment, and violence against children. We ask for WHO to develop parenting interventions that address alcohol.
Movendi International, through its Official Relationship Status with the WHO, will address the 76th Session of the World Health Assembly through statements and support other civil society statements during discussions on key agenda items:
- Agenda item 12: Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) (A76/5)
- Official statement delivered by International President, Kristina Sperkova
- Agenda item 13.1: Universal Health Coverage (A76/6 A76/7 Rev.1)
- Official statement delivered by International President, Kristina Sperkova
Our statement on agenda item 12 can be found here (PDF).
Our statement on agenda item 13.1 can be found here (PDF).
- Agenda item 15.1: Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies (A76/7 Rev.1)
- Constituency statement delivered by Kelcey Clara Armstrong-Walenczak, World Heart Federation (PDF)
- Agenda item 16.1: Well-Being and Health Promotion (A76/7 Rev.1 and A76/7 Add.2 and A76/7 Add.3)
- Official statement not delivered during WHA76, but submitted to the WHO Secretariat (PDF)
- Agenda item 16.2: Ending Violence against Children through Health Systems Strengthening and Multi-sectoral approaches (A76/7 Rev.1)
- Official statement delivered by International President, Kristina Sperkova (PDF)
- Agenda item 16.3: Social Determinants of Health (A76/7 Rev.1 and EB152/2023/REC/1, decision EB152(12)
- Constituency statement delivered by Magdalena Wetzel, World Obesity Federation (PDF)
- Agenda item 26: Collaboration within the United Nations system and with other intergovernmental organizations (A76/36)
Alcohol remains one of the leading risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease. It is the eight leading preventable risk factor of disease. The contribution of alcohol to the global disease burden has been increasing from 2.6% of DALYs* in 1990 to 3.7% of DALYs in 2019.
In high income countries alcohol use is the second fasted growing risk factor and in LMICs it is the fourth fastest rising risk factor for the global disease burden.
Alcohol is the second largest risk factor for disease burden in the age group 10-24 years. Alcohol is the largest risk factor for disease burden in the group 25-49 years.
Modelling forecasts that global targets to reduce alcohol use and harm will not be met.
The World Health Statistics report is the annual compilation of health and health-related indicators which has been published by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2005.
World Health Statistics 2023 Show Progress on Alcohol Use and Need for Accelerated Action As Risk Exposure Remains High
The report with data up to 2022 underscores a stagnation of health progress on key health indicators in recent years compared with trends seen during 2000-2015. It also alerts to the growing threat of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), their major risk factors, such as alcohol, and climate change, and calls for a coordinated and strengthened response.
The 2023 World Health Statistics report a reduction in exposure to many health risks, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, violence, unsafe water and sanitation, and child stunting. But risk exposure remains high, especially for factors such as alcohol consumption and hypertension where declines began only in recent years.