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The 70th World Health Assembly 2017

Opening of the 70th World Health AssemblyThe 70th

As one of eight co-founders, and current Chair and CEO of DAI, I’ve been in Geneva this last week attending the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA). Professor Peter Mittler arrived¬†yesterday as well.

The theme this year and a brief statement about what the World Health Assembly is about is below, and you can read much more about it on the WHO website, via the link of the title.

Health throughout the Life-course at WHA70

“The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget. The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.”

At this years World Health Assembly, the dementia community anticipate the Global Action Plan for a Public Health Approach to Dementia will be accepted at the WHA.

As The Global Action Plan is item 15.2 on the agenda, we have had no control of when the item will come up, and had hoped it would be on Friday, in order for us to witness this historic moment. It is one that people with dementia and advocacy organisations have campaigned on for many years.

DAI specifically campaigned for the plan to include a human rights based approach, so luckily, athough I cannot be here, Peter will still be here.  Although there is little evidence of human rights in the Final Action Plan, you can read our response to the Draft.

This was the announcement from Day 1 of the election at the World Health Assembly of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as new WHO Director-General. I was pleased to be in the main Assembly hall to witness this, at the opening of the WHA.  You can also read many of the updates about the progress of the event on the WHO website about the progress and sessions held each day.

Throughout the week, I have attended many side events, including two hosted by the Non Communicable Diseases (NCDS’s) Alliance. Whilst dementia is a NCD, it was not mentioned once during these events, even though every risk factor for almost all of the other NCD’s is also a risk factor for dementia.

One side event I attended, “World Economic Forum”¬†was¬†is a very sobering session, as most of the panellists said our health system is broken around the world, and it is much worse for women. The gender bias makes this worse.

There are almost 30 events like this during the WHA, but the Chair of one of the Side events said quite clearly, that too often people go home, back to their jobs and nothing changes. He continued by saying too few people are TAKING ACTION, and there is also a general bias against women which often results in them being denied care,  because as women, they are treated as if their symptoms are not real.

On top of that, all too often, dementia remains the elephant in the room, in part due to people stating it is covered in mental illness. Dementia is not a mental illness, and as such, needs to receive its own specific attention, and we remain hopeful the Global Action Plan for a Public Health Approach to Dementia  will help ensure this.

Hopefully we will be able to announce its adoption early next week.

Kate Swaffer

DAI and ADI continue to work together

Following a DAI, ADI, GADAA and Swiss Government Side event last night at the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, I was also able to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between DAI and ADI, and this photo is of the new CEO, Paola Barbarino and  me signing it. This means the two organisations will continue to work in collaboration, but autonomously, as sister organisations for the benefits of people with dementia and our families, and ensures we have sponsorship to support people with dementia through DAI.

These are my speech notes for the Side Event mentioned above: 

“NEW OPPORTUNITIES FROM THE GLOBAL ACTION PLAN ON DEMENTIA”

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman

People with dementia greatly value the global leadership of¬†¬†Dr Saxena, Dr Dua and Dr Margaret Chang and their team, in meeting the needs of people with dementia providing this World Health Organisation “Global Action Plan for a Public Health Approach to Dementia” which we hope will be accepted at the WHA tomorrow or soon after.

I was asked to discuss why a global action plan has been so important to me, and was also given the brief to be challenging. Of course, that is not difficult for me.

In reality, we need this plan because care is failing, and research for a cure is failing.

In representing the global community of people living with dementia, although my own experience is unique, I have been campaigning for human rights based approach to dementia for many years. What this means is a whole of health care approach, and support for disabilities to maintain independence for as long as possible, with educated health care workers who provide optimal care that includes rehabilitation, and dignity for all people.

We wish to state today that we are concerned the Global Action Plan provides little evidence of using the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to underpin the policy, and therefore ask that we all work together to ensure human rights for all, including people with dementia.

People with dementia are fully recognised by the UN as rights bearers under this treaty, which means that the governments of the 173 Member States who have ratified the Convention have been held to account for their inclusion by the UN Human Rights Bodies since the Treaty came into full operation in 2008.

We ask for the support of all Health Ministers and their governments to enable the 50 million people now living with dementia and the 100 million who must not be Left Behind in 2030 to have access to their rights in international law on the same basis as those with other disabilities.

We will continue to advocate for governments and all members of civil society to work towards ensuring the human rights based approach to dementia will be reflected in their national dementia strategies as we work together to implement this plan in society to ensure a higher quality of life for people living with dementia and our families.

Thank you.

Kate Swaffer
Chair, CEO & Co-founder, Dementia Alliance International

Please note, I only had three minutes as part of a panel, so was unable to give a more complete response from DAI to the Plan.