Global issues discussed during the WMA General Assembly

Health Care, Medicine No Comments

Dr KK Aggarwal

The World Medical Association (WMA) concluded its annual General Assembly in Chicago held from October 11-14. More than 50 national medical associations attended the annual General Assembly and discussed various global issues.

Dr Yoshitake Yokokura, President of the Japan Medical Association, was installed as President of the WMA for 2017-18. Dr Leonid Eidelman, President of the Israel Medical Association, was elected President elect. He will take office in a year’s time to serve as President in 2018-19.

Hunger strikes: The Assembly agreed that the WMA would support any physician who faces political pressure to take part in forced feeding of hunger strikers against their ethical advice. In a revision of its policy on hunger strikers, the WMA says that national medical associations ‘have a responsibility to make efforts to prevent unethical practices, to take a position against ethical violations, and to investigate them properly’. Delegates agreed that where physicians are pressured to take part in torture, the WMA would protest internationally and publicize information about the case.

Bullying: A policy of zero tolerance towards bullying and harassment in the medical profession was supported by the meeting. Delegates agreed a statement condemning bullying under any circumstances and encouraging all national medical associations members, medical schools, employers, and medical colleges to establish and implement anti-bullying and harassment policies.
WMA President, Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura said: ‘Bullying in the health workplace is entirely unprofessional and destructive, and should not be tolerated. It is time the profession took steps to prevent, confront, report and eliminate such behaviour at any level’.

Armed conflict: Against a background of armed conflicts in many parts of the world, the Assembly issued a strongly worded statement reminding governments of the human consequence of warfare. It says that armed conflict should always be a last resort and physicians should encourage politicians, governments, and others in positions of power to be more aware of the consequence of their decisions to start or continue armed conflict. Efforts to avoid conflicts are often insufficient and inadequate and country leaders may not seek all alternatives. Delegates stressed that avoiding war and seeking constructive alternatives is always desirable.

Access to health care: A call for ethical codes for recruiting health professionals was agreed in a bid to reduce inappropriate recruitment activities by states. The Assembly approved a new policy to combat the problems of a global maldistribution of health care workers. It declared that the global movement of workers, especially from less developed to better developed countries, is leading to continuing shortages. It said that ethical recruitment codes were needed for both governments and commercial recruitment agencies to ensure that countries did not actively recruit from other states.

Alcohol: A worldwide drink drive limit of no more than 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood was called for by the Assembly in a new drive to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. In a statement, the WMA says that key deterrents should be implemented for driving while intoxicated, including a strictly enforced legal maximum blood alcohol concentration for drivers of no more than 50mg/100ml, supported by social marketing campaigns and the power of authorities to impose immediate sanctions. WMA President Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura said: ‘The human cost of drunk driving across the world is appalling. The daily tragedy of death and injury caused by drivers who drink while over the limit is unforgivable. I hope that governments will act to reduce the drink drive limit’.

Child abuse: Guidance to physicians on dealing with child abuse were agreed. In a new policy document, the WMA says that child abuse in all its forms, including exploitation of children in the labour market, is a world health problem and that physicians have a unique and special role in identifying and helping abused children and their families. All physicians should be educated about the overriding importance of the welfare of children. They should act in the best interests of children in all of their contacts with children, young people, families, policy-makers and other professionals.

Fair trade: The Assembly condemned the abuses of labour standards, evidence of modern slavery and unethical working conditions that have been uncovered in the manufacture of many medical products around the world. In a new Declaration, the WMA calls for a fair and ethical purchasing policy for medical goods. It urges all its national medical association members to advocate for human rights to be protected throughout the global supply chains of products used in their healthcare systems.

New members: Five new members were admitted – the Czech Medical Chamber, the Belarusian Association of Physicians, the Pakistan Medical Association, the National Medical Chamber of Russia and the Belize Medical and Dental Association. This increases the total number of medical associations and constituent members in the WMA to 114.

All the policies adopted by the Assembly can be found on the website of the WMA.

(Source: WMA, October 16, 2017)

AHA guidance on improving employee health and engagement

Health Care, Medicine No Comments

Dr KK Aggarwal

The American Heart Association (AHA) has released an evidence review report titled “Resilience in the Workplace: An Evidence Review and Implications for Practice”, with practical actionable guidance for employers looking to implement resilience training programs. According to the report, resilience is an emerging, innovative strategy to improve employee health and productivity, and organizational performance.

The CEO Roundtable is the AHA’s leadership collaborative with 30-plus member CEOs who represent some of the nation’s largest employers who are committed to applying evidence-based approaches to improve their employees’ overall health.

Studies suggest resilience training may be a useful primary prevention strategy for employers to improve employee health and engagement. Although there is no consensus on how to define resilience, the report says that “resilience can be considered, in general, the ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands”.

Resilience training aims to develop or strengthen a person’s ability to withstand, recover and bounce back from adversity and may improve the ability to cope with, and recover from negative workplace stressors.

In an online employee of 1,001 working adults within the US, which has also been included in the report, 73% said that their participation in resilience training programs improved their health a great deal or fair amount; specifically, they reported having more energy (51%), exercising regularly (45%), and improved quality of life (41%).

(Source: AHA News Release, October 11, 2017)

WMA approves Modern Physicians Pledge

Health Care, Medicine No Comments

WMA approves Modern Physicians Pledge

Dr KK Aggarwal

A modern successor to the Hippocratic Oath for physicians around the world has been approved by the World Medical Association.

Physician leaders, meeting at the WMA’s annual General Assembly in Chicago approved revisions to the Declaration of Geneva, which was adopted by the Association in 1948.

The revised Declaration, to be called a pledge, refocuses the text to reflect changes over the decades in the relationship between physicians and their patients and between physicians themselves. As a result, the new pledge makes specific reference for the first time to respecting the autonomy of the patient, which is not included in the current text. It also includes a new obligation for respect between teachers, colleagues and students.

The present Declaration says students must respect their teachers, but there is no reciprocity. There is a new obligation on physicians to share medical knowledge for the benefit of their patients and the advancement of healthcare.

Also added is a requirement for physicians to attend to their own health, well-being and abilities in order to provide care of the highest standard.

The current Declaration of Geneva is used across the world by physicians. In many countries it is actually part of the medical professional code and in some it is legally binding. However, in other countries it is either not used at all or is adapted in some way.

The WMA is now expecting that the revised pledge, agreed following a two-year revision process, including a period for public consultation, will become a global ethical code for all physicians.

WMA President Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura said: ‘The new wording respects the unique character and significance of this Declaration, but focuses more on important ethical principles not in the current version and not expressed explicitly.

‘The life of physicians today is completely different to what it was in 1948 when the original Declaration of Geneva was adopted. Since then, the Declaration has become a core document of medical ethics and a modern version of the 2,500-year old Hippocratic Oath.

‘We hope that the Declaration approved today will be used by all physicians around the world to strengthen the profession’s determination to maintain the highest standard of health care for patients’

(Source: WMA News Release, October 14, 2017)

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