Commonwealth health ministers to consider civil society recommendations on workforce and climate change-related health challenges

22 March 2024
Nurse holding a neede

A Commonwealth association representing health professionals and activists is encouraging health ministers to seriously consider their six-point plan to improve healthcare systems as they meet at the upcoming Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (CHMM).

The Commonwealth Health Professions and Partners Alliance (CHPA), which includes associations of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, and HIV/AIDs and disability rights activists, proposed the recommendations at their 2024 Civil Society Policy Forum held recently.

The CHPA's proposals will be on the agenda for Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting, which will be held on 24 and 25 May 2024 in Geneva, in the margins of the 77th World Health Assembly. The group’s proposals include:

  • Prioritising climate change effects on health when developing policies and resources;
  • Developing effective, sustainable and responsive disaster preparedness plans with support from the WHO benchmarks for Strengthening Health Emergency Capacities;
  • Establishing national action plans that focus on prevention, early detection, and effective disease management to support good mental and physical health;
  • Facilitating intergenerational interaction, collaboration, and learning across all sectors to achieve the goal of healthy communities throughout life;
  • Collaborating with civil society to revisit and further develop guidelines and policies around ethical cross-border recruitment from low and middle-income countries to ensure fairness and mutuality of benefit and minimise 'brain drain'; and
  • Establishing multi-sector evidence-based programmes and policies to create safe, equitable, inclusive, and transparent recruitment policies and work environments that support health and wellbeing and address pay gaps and poor working conditions. 

CHPA’s chair, Professor Vajira Dissanayake, spoke about the importance of the ministerial meeting’s theme – ‘Actionable Solutions to Building Resilience in Healthcare Systems within the Commonwealth, with an Emphasis on Small and Vulnerable States. He said the alliance's contribution to CHMM aims to raise awareness of the impact of climate change and natural disasters on health and of current health workforce challenges

It was also hoped that the proposal would initiate dialogue and collaboration among other civil society organisations, who will then agree on and propose actionable solutions for health ministers to consider when they meet. Professor Dissanayake also recognised the Commonwealth Pharmacy Association's leadership in organising the recent forum.

Describing the Civil Society Policy Forum as an important milestone in the lead-up to the health ministerial meeting, Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, stressed the value of civil society's contributions to creating resilient health systems. 

The Commonwealth Secretary-General said:

"Civil society plays an indispensable role in fortifying our health systems. Civil society plays a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of global health, serving as a catalyst for change, a watchdog for accountability, and a voice for those who are not heard.

"Civil society also serves as a bridge between policymakers, healthcare providers, and communities, facilitating dialogue and building trust. So, I am clear, it is not possible to achieve true resilience without civil society."

The Commonwealth Civil Society Policy Forum's outcomes and recommendations will be shared with health ministers and senior officials ahead of CHMM for their consideration during the summit.

About the 36th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting