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Advocacy in Action

We work with our member societies to advocate at the local, national, regional and global levels to advance anaesthesia care. Together, we approach decision makers and key influencers.

We amplify the voices of anaesthesiologists around the world to convey the importance of this branch of medicine.

Global Health Policy

The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery

In 2015 The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery published a seminal paper for global anaesthesia and surgery which highlighted that more than 5 billion people are without access to safe and affordable surgical care when needed.

The WFSA was closely involved with the work of the Commission. Former WFSA Council member Dr Iain Wilson was a Lancet Commissioner and WFSA-President Elect, Dr Wayne Morris and CEO, Julian Gore-Booth were both panellists at the launch event.

For further information on the importance of anaesthesia and perioperative care, WFSA recommend the Disease Control Priorities 3 (DCP-3) report on Essential Surgery which evidences the economic argument for surgical scale-up.

World Health Organisation

The WFSA is in official liaison with the World Health Organisation (WHO). We work with the WHO and UN Member States to ensure anaesthesia is prioritised in all relevant discussions. Additionally, the WFSA works with other international bodies and decision-makers to advance anaesthesia in the global health agenda.

The WFSA actively advocated in support of WHA resolution 68:15 “Strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage”  passed by consensus on 22 May 2015 at the 68th World Health Assembly. This resolution forms part of, and influences, WFSA’s wider response to the global crisis in surgery and anaesthesia.

WFSA are an active participant in the World Health Assembly (WHA) meetings, engaging with key stakeholders and decision-makers from around the world to progress the implementation of WHA resolution 68.15 and the role of anaesthesia and surgery within the global health agenda.

WFSA statements delivered at the 73rd WHA in 2020:

WHA Resolution 68:15

The WFSA made statements at the World Health Assembly and commended states that have initiated the development of national surgical, obstetric and anaesthesia plans (NSOAPs), and urged others to do the same. Additionally, the WFSA, along with Lifebox, held a side-event at the WHA entitled “What next for surgery and anaesthesia? Civil society & global solutions” which explored the future of global surgery and anaesthesia.

Thanks to the hard work of the WFSA and a number of country delegations and organisations working to progress the Resolution, member states approved an amendment calling upon the Director-General to provide a progress report on WHA Resolution 68.15 every 3-years until 2030.

Ketamine and international drug policy

When some countries called for international restrictions on ketamine, the WFSA coordinated an international campaign to address those countries concerns. We advocated with governments and the WHO to limit the potential threat to the availability of ketamine as an essential anaesthesia drug.

The #KetamineIsMedicine Campaign was created in response to calls for the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to ’schedule’ ketamine under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

The WFSA set up the Ketamine Campaign Resource Hub as part of a wider campaign to urge anaesthesiologists, medical staff, and those against scheduling ketamine, to raise their concerns.

More than 80 organisations, including the WFSA, Save the Children, Oxfam, Operation Smile and others endorsed the ketamine fact sheet:

WHO Every Newborn: an action plan to end preventable deaths

As safe anaesthesia and surgery are essential for reducing the number of preventable newborn deaths, the WFSA provided feedback on the WHO’s 2014 draft action plan, which at that time made no mention of the role and importance of anaesthesiology. This despite the known impact of obstetric and paediatric anaesthesia in preventing neo-natal deaths and in managing pain for mothers during delivery.

As a consequence of WFSA’s advocacy, the final draft of Every Newborn: an action plan to end preventable deaths includes reference to anaesthetic staff and bag and mask resuscitation.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the future of global anaesthesia policy

The UN’s 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) omitted the important roles of anaesthesia and surgery. The neglect to focus on this life-saving branch of medicine has exacerbated the crisis that we have today with five billion people unable to access safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care when needed.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015 as a follow-up to the MDGs, gave the world an opportunity to ensure that mistakes would not be repeated and that universal access to safe surgery and anaesthesia were highlighted. Unfortunately, SDG 3 “Ensure Healthy Lives…” failed again to specifically mention anaesthesia and surgery. As such, we are seeking to influence the global development and health agendas through other more established avenues such as:

  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
  • Health System Strengthening
  • Mother
  • Maternal, New-born and Child Health (MNCH)
  • Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
  • Road traffic accidents

You can download Health Priorities Post 2015 a paper written by members of WFSA and Lifebox outlining why surgical care should have been given priority in the post 2015 health agenda. WFSA is also a proud co-signatory of the Amsterdam Declaration which, together with 50 other organisations, called for the inclusion of anaesthesia and surgery in the SDGs.

In 2019 the WFSA and the G4 Alliance also released a response to the Political Declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In this response, the WFSA and the G4 Alliance welcomed the commitment and reaffirmation of efforts to combat NCDs, but drew attention to concerns placing such singular emphasis on prevention of NCDs, whilst overlooking the need for detection, diagnosis, treatment and management, which may, in turn, require anaesthesia and surgery. You can access the UN’s Political Declaration here.

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