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World Health Assembly agrees first resolution on palliative care

World Health Assembly

Source: WHO/Pierre Albouy

After the WHA, stakeholders will meet to create a new taskforce dedicated to palliative care

The first ever WHO resolution to integrate hospice and palliative care into national health services was passed by member states at the 67th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, in May 2014.

The resolution “Strengthening of palliative care as a component of integrated treatment within the continuum of care” involves a set of standards and guidelines for palliative care and signals to national governments that palliative care must be part of their health policies, budgets and healthcare education. 

There is limited or no access to palliative care services in 42% of countries, according to the “Global atlas of palliative care at the end of life”, issued in January 2014 by the WHO and Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance. And only 20 countries in the world have fully integrated palliative care into their national healthcare systems.

Following the World Health Assembly, stakeholders will meet to create a new taskforce dedicated to enhancing global awareness and updating curricula to train healthcare professionals.

Palliative care includes a wide range of chronic and degenerative conditions where support for carers and psychological assistance should also be provided. “[It] is not limited to those who are suffering from cancer at the latest stages,” said WHO director of the service delivery and safety department, Edward Kelley. “Palliative care should be delivered on the basis of need, not diagnosis or prognosis,” added Kelley.

Approximately 20 million patients worldwide, 6% of which are children, require palliative care at the end of life. If you include patients with progressive illnesses such as heart failure, HIV or drug resistant tuberculosis this number jumps to 40 million.

“Pharmacists have a key role to play in medicines safety, particularly in the palliative care setting,” said Kelley. “Medicines reconciliation is at the centre of our global campaign, which will be launched later in the year,” he added.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11138943

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