Pain, Palliative Care

Securing Palliative Care’s place on the UN Health Agenda!!


UN Headquarters complex on the East River

Three weeks ago, I crossed that fascinating, and often hidden, line from being a tourist to being “part of the toured.”  Those of you living in major cities, such as London and New York with huge tourist traffic, may cross that line daily as tourists observe you and your lives.  For me, I was a participant at the UN Civil Society meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases in the General Assembly Hall in New York, and as we sat in session, tour groups were walking through behind us, observing “the UN at work.”  I had crossed over, gone from just watching to being a participant in the global agenda.

Non-Communicable Diseases are on the global agenda and will be highlighted from 19-20 September 2011 with the first ever United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in New York. Heads of State and high level delegates from around the world will meet at the General Assembly to agree on a strategy for tackling Non Communicable Diseases, which are responsible for 60% of all deaths worldwide, and most in Low and Middle Income Countries.  In preparation for that meeting, country delegations are reworking a document that will be voted on at that meeting (Zero Draft).

It is absolutely vital that in addressing NCDs, palliative care is recognized as a core part of the continuum of prevention, treatment and care for people affected to prevent pain and suffering. Or to paraphrase Sir George Alleyne’s statement at the Civil Society meeting “We need to be hold the placard for Palliative Care.”  The Noncommunicable Disease Alliance and especially the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) are doing their bits to keep palliative care on the agenda.

Changes are being proposed that include important statements about palliative care but it is essential that we all educate our leaders to ensure that members states:

  • Recognize and acknowledge the level of pain and suffering as a result of NCDs and the current lack of access to palliative care
  • Set a clear timeframe for the implementation of prioritised interventions including palliative care to address NCDs
  • Commit to national policy, plans and health systems that deliver evidence based, affordable and cost-effective interventions for NCDS including preventative, curative, palliative and rehabilitative services and health promotion activities
  • Recognise the need for access to palliative care medications for pain treatment.

This is not to exclude Palliative care for other diseases. In fact as a result of this sort of education, palliative care remained in the recent UN declarations about HIV/AIDS.  It shows the power of this level of participation.

Make the jump from being “just a tourist!”  Become a participant in Global Health.

Acknowledgement to these colleagues for their leadership in this process:

  • Claire Morris, Help the Hospices and the Worldwidw Palliative Care Alliance
  • Diederick Lohmann, Human Rights Watch
  • Stephen Connor, Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance

About Pain policy & palliative care

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