20 June 2019

The 72nd WHO World Health Assembly (WHA) held in Geneva late May adopted a revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) that includes for the first time in history allergy as a disease of the immune system. The 194 countries in the WHA also included in the classification other diseases such as stroke, gender incongruence, or gaming disorder. This future ICD-11 that will enter into force in 2022 is a milestone for the history of allergic diseases.

Allergy finally classified as a disease of the immune system

The International Classification of Diseases is a coding tool used for health statistics that helps quantifying a disease. With allergies having their own code, healthcare professionals and patients can expect not only to get a better picture of the prevalence of the diseases, but also better visibility and improved management in order to reduce the morbidity and mortality related to allergies.

This ICD-11 is a huge step forward in the effort to standardise health issues affecting humans. It includes 55,000 unique codes for injuries, diseases, and causes of death, compared with 14,400 for ICD-10.

The inclusion of allergy has been possible thanks to specialists from the Department of pulmonology and addiction of the University Hospital of Montpellier (France), which was appointed as a WHO collaborator of scientific support to the classification of allergy in the ICD. The team was led by Prof Pascal Demoly and Dr Luciana Kase Tanner.

WHA focused on Universal Health Coverage

This years’ WHA was driven by discussions around universal health coverage (UHC). Being one of the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030, UHC entails that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

Universal health coverage enables everyone to access medical services that address the most significant causes of disease and death. It includes the full spectrum of care, from health promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

With regard to UHC, WHO Member States agreed three resolutions focusing on (1) primary healthcare, (2) the role of community health workers, and (3) the September United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on universal health coverage.

Primary healthcare towards universal health coverage

The first resolution recognises the strong role primary health care plays in ensuring that countries can provide not only disease-specific care, but the full range of health services a person needs throughout a lifetime.

The resolution calls on the WHO Secretariat to increase its support to Member States and to finalise the Primary Health Care Operational Framework within the upcoming year. WHO and other stakeholders are further tasked with supporting countries in implementing the 2018 Declaration of Astana on primary health and care, and mobilising resources accordingly.

Community health workers delivering primary health care

The second resolution recognizes the contribution made by community health workers to achieving universal health coverage.

Countries and partners are urged to use WHO’s health policy guidelines to optimize the community health worker programme, and to allocate adequate resources. Furthermore, the WHO Secretariat is requested to analyse progress and provide support to Member States.

Universal health coverage high-level meeting

The final resolution on UHC supports the preparation for the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on universal health coverage in September 2019.

The UN meeting will call for the involvement of governments in coordinating the work required across all sectors to achieve UHC. Therefore, the WHA called on WHO member states to accelerate progress towards UCH with a special focus on poor, vulnerable and marginalised individuals and groups.

More information on the 72nd WHO World Health Assembly can be found here.

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The EFA Team