APHA Signs on to Letter to WHO Executive Board on Protection of Health Care Workers

The following message is from Peter Freeman, chair of the IH Section’s Advocacy and Policy Committee.

Since October 2011, members of the IH Advocacy & Policy Committee have been participating on a coalition, organized through IntraHealth International, whose aim is to bring global focus onto the protection of health care workers, patients and systems in areas and times of conflict.

In mid January 2012, the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) is scheduled to meet; members of this coalition will be in attendance. To move the coalition’s agenda forward, a letter is being presented to the WHO Executive Board asking to put a resolution before the WHO Assembly that would call for:
*the development and implementation of a plan to collect and report data concerning attacks on health facilities, workers and patients or other violations of medical neutrality where conflicts are taking place;
*make this data publicly available on the WHO website
*regularly update said data
The coalition has asked for agencies who have stake in the protection of global health care infrastructures to sign onto this letter.

It is greatly exciting to report that on January 13, 2012, APHA agreed to become a signatory of this letter! The Advocacy & Policy Committee is encouraged to see a growing receptiveness and response by APHA staff to give the association a voice on the global health platform and we look forward to many more advocacy victories!

Peter F Freeman, MPH
Chair, APHA-IH Advocacy/Policy Committee

Content of the letter signed on by APHA:

Dear Members of the WHO Executive Board:

We write to urge that you support action at the Executive Board to bring WHO’s expertise to the pressing problem of attacks on health care, including health care workers, during situations of conflict. The report released by the International Committee of the Red Cross last August – Health Care in Danger – concluded that, “in terms of number of people affected, violence, both real and threatened, against health-care workers, facilities and beneficiaries is one of the biggest, most complex, and yet most under-recognized humanitarian issues today.” As Director-General Margaret Chan recognized in her address to the World Health Assembly last May, the problem needs the urgent attention of the global health community. WHO is uniquely positioned to address a key need identified by the ICRC and many others, which is sound and reliable data on the magnitude and dynamics of violence against health care and health workers.

WHO’s expertise in developing an evidence base for global health policy, in health systems development and in humanitarian coordination creates an opportunity for leadership at the global level. The WHO can develop and implement methods for systematic collection of data on attacks on health facilities, workers, and transport and patients in conflict areas. This should be done in cooperation with other relevant UN agencies, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.

We ask that the Executive Board adopt a resolution for consideration by the World Health Assembly that requests the Director-General to develop and implement a plan for WHO to collect and report data on attacks on health facilities, workers and patients where conflicts are taking place or other violations of medical neutrality. The data should be publicly available and periodically updated on the WHO web site.

The signatories to this letter are familiar with the tragic consequences of violence on health care. There are roles for many entities, including health workers themselves, governments, professional associations, non-governmental organizations and other UN agencies. All must do their part to increase protection. WHO’s role is limited but essential, as it is in the best position to lead the data collection process.

We therefore urge you to support action at the Executive Board to enhance protection of health in situations of conflict.

All Kinds of Belated News (Week of September 18-24)


The Fall 2011 Newsletter has been posted!  Be sure to check out recent announcements, section updates, links to recent blog entries, and lots of fellowship opportunities!

The Advocacy/Policy Committee would like to invite you to participate in our first Advocacy Day, led in partnership with the Global Health Council. The day, scheduled for Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, immediately following the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., will be an opportunity for us to voice support for a continued focus on international health to our elected officials. With the intense Congressional pressure to cut the budget, our voices can make a real difference. As a participant during this exciting day, you will be provided with training materials on effective advocacy techniques to ensure your message is clearly heard. Even if you do not have advocacy experience, you need not hesitate to sign up because you will be teamed with others. Please consider joining your fellow International Health Section members on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 on Capitol Hill to advocate for a healthy globe. Interested parties should register here. Please note that registration will close on October 14th. Any questions should be directed to Peter Freeman, Advocacy/Policy Committee Chair, at pffreeman@gmail.com or 773.318.4842.

The G+ Vaccines Challenge has been launched!  G+, a new online community launched by Gerson Lehrman Group, has partnered with IndieGoGo and StartUp Health to solicit early stage ideas for tackling problems and inefficiencies in vaccine delivery  in-the-field, distribution and development. Finalists will have the unique opportunity to present their ideas to a panel of investment, NGO and corporate and life sciences professionals with the influence to advance those ideas towards realization.  You can find more information about the challenge here.


Dr. Benjamin is currently on a teaching sabbatical at Hunter College in NYC. Alan Baker (former Chief of Staff at APHA) returned to serve as Acting Executive
Director in the interim.


  • The UN held its first-ever meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  Global health journalist Tom Paulson provided some great coverage of the event on the Humanosphere blog.
  • World leaders unanimously adopted the NCD Summit Outcome Document at the General Assembly in New York.
  • On the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting in New York, the United States and WHO signed a memorandum of understanding to help developing countries boost capacity to meet the International Health Regulations.
  • The cost for the developing world to address NCDs, based on the WHO’s recommendation to increase budgets by 4%, will be $11.4 billion.


Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates appears poised to endorse the adoption of a controversial financial transactions tax (FTT) to be used as a new source of development aid for poor countries.


  • The multibillion dollar Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria must do a better job managing its grants to partner countries, according to an independent review panel.  A seven member panel investigating the Global Fund has recommended that it place greater emphasis on results and improve risk management.  In the Center for Global Development blog, William Savedoff is concerned that the new report suggesting changes for the Global Fund will move it away from innovating.
  • USAID has announced that it will be giving a $200 million grant to the Public Health Institute to support its global health fellows program.
  • Private and public actors have lined up to support Every Woman Every Child and its goal of preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies.


Researchers at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago announced that they were able to reduce the level of HIV in infected people through cell-based therapy.


  • The privacy curtains that separate care spaces in hospitals and clinics are frequently contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria, according to a U.S. study.
  • If today’s momentum and progress against malaria can be sustained, deaths from this infectious disease could be reduced to near-zero, and cases of infection cut by 75 per cent in the next decade, says a recent report by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership.
  • Depression may go hand in hand with a number of other physical health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Now the latest evidence suggests that depression may also increase the risk of stroke.
  • Polio has spread to China for the first time since 1999 after being imported from Pakistan, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed.

TOTALLY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING: Melinda Gates is now on Twitter!