Last week, Cochrane participated in the 154th session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting in Geneva.
The Executive Board is composed of 34 technically qualified representatives from different Member States, elected for three-year terms. Every January, the Executive Board meets at WHO headquarters to discuss global public health priorities for the year ahead and set the agenda for the World Health Assembly.
In addition to the Executive Board, all Member States and civil society organizations in official relations with WHO, such as Cochrane, are given the opportunity to contribute. This provided our delegation a great platform to advocate for evidence-based health policy.
The session began with an opening statement by WHO Director-General. He highlighted the key achievements of the previous year, including the landmark decision to include life-changing treatments for multiple sclerosis drugs in the Essential Medicines List, which Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis and Rare Diseases of the CNS played a key role in.
WHO’s 14th General Programme of Work (GPW14) was a major focus of this year’s meeting. GPW14 is a medium-term strategy agreed by Member States and will defines the direction of WHO’s work (including on evidence-based health) for 2025-28, with the goal to promote, provide, and protect health.
Emma Thompson, Cochrane’s Advocacy and Partnerships Lead, made a statement in front of Member States and WHO’s Director-General, speaking on behalf of Cochrane in applauding the draft GPW’s recognition of WHO’s science and evidence-based leadership, particularly highlighting the importance of high-quality evidence in health decision making.
In addition to the official planned activities at the Executive Board meeting, Cochrane’s delegation used the opportunity to meet with several different WHO departments to discuss plans for Cochrane’s Scientific Strategy, which is currently in development, and opportunities for our next joint workplan.
Our delegation had many productive conversations with key individuals and teams on how Cochrane and WHO can continue to work together to address global public health priorities in the coming years. Supported by our years of relationship building, collaboration and advocacy, we held meetings with many WHO teams, covering a wide range of portfolios including maternal, newborn and child health; essential medicines; malaria, tropical diseases; nutrition; clinical trials; guidelines; health emergencies; and science.
Another key highlight of the week was a meeting between Cochrane’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr Karla Soares-Weiser, and the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Jarbas Barbosa and Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, PAHO Assistant Director. During the meeting, they discussed collaboration between Cochrane and PAHO, which is underpinned by a new memorandum of understanding and Dr Soares-Weiser highlighted Cochrane’s enthusiasm for the formalisation of this partnership.