Global Mental Health and the 66th session of the World Health Assembly 20-28 May 2013

The World Health Assembly is the senior decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO). It generally meets in May each year, and is attended by delegations from all 194 Member States. Its main function is to determine the policies of WHO. This week the 66th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) is taking place in Geneva.
A major topic and agenda item at this year’s WHA is non-communicable diseases (NCDs, like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease). Global Mental Health falls under the NCDs umbrella. But, according to Dr. Shekhar Saxena (WHO’s director of mental health and substance abuse) in the Star, ‘if NCDs are in the wilderness, then global mental health has been wandering in a kind of “double wilderness,”‘. Even within the NCDs umbrella, it has been difficult to make mental health a priority.
However there are positive developments this year: A Draft Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020 will probably been endorsed by the WHA member states this week, with four objectives:
1) strengthen leadership and governance for mental health
2) provide comprehensive mental health and social care in communities
3) implement promotion and prevention strategies
4) strengthen information systems and evidence and research
(note: few days after this blog post, at Friday 24 May 2013, the WHA66 approved this mental health resolution, see WHA66 daily notes).
And in the proposed WHO Programme Budget 2014–2015 the NCDs have a +20.5% increase in budget.
The challenge remains to keep global mental health on global agenda’s and claim our position under the NCDs umbrella. And ‘Will ratification of WHO Mental Health Action Plan be the paradigm shift in policy we have been waiting for?’ (Mary De Silva @GMentalHealth on Twitter May 22).


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