This week, we’re at the 146th WHO Executive Board meeting in Geneva. The Executive Board sets the agenda for the annual World Health Assembly in May.

The World Health Organization recently named coronavirus “a public health emergency of international concern,” and this, appropriately, is a major focus of the Board. We build national support for investments in epidemic preparedness as part of the Resolve to Save Lives initiative, so the outcomes of the meeting will have a direct impact on our work.

Here are some of the other issues we’re following at this year’s gathering:

Universal health coverage: moving together to build a healthier world

World leaders unanimously adopted a declaration in support of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) at last year’s United Nations General Assembly. UHC means that quality health services should be available to everyone who needs them, without causing them financial harm. Now, the hard part begins: making sure that countries can deliver on their promise. In September, we explained why civil society advocacy capacity-building is at the heart of this process.

The prevention and control of non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the world’s leading causes of death. Last year, we joined the NCD Alliance in urging governments “to demonstrate leadership…to prevent much of the early death, pain and financial strain inflicted by NCDs.” We work alongside WHO and our civil society partners to help countries reduce their NCD burdens, including through our programs on cardiovascular health, drowning prevention, obesity prevention and road safety.

Maternal, infant and young child nutrition

Maternal and child nutrition is the foundation of lifelong health. This year, the Board will review a report on WHO’s implementation plan, and it will also continue to shine a spotlight on harmful marketing practices. We have seen firsthand how the multinational food industry uses tactics pioneered by the tobacco industry to sell unhealthy foods to kids, but we’ve also seen that countries can push back when supported by civil society.

Accelerating efforts on food safety

We’re pleased to see WHO’s ongoing attention to foodborne diseases. We also recognize the health dangers of some ingredients that are intentionally added, and we’re proud to work with civil society groups contributing to WHO’s plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply.

These are just a few highlights from a packed agenda, and as we follow the debates, one thing is always on our mind: all of this only matters if we’re able to carry it out back at home.

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