Commmunicable Diseases


Communicable diseases remain a major global public health threat worldwide. Malaria and HIV/AIDS are mass killers, with the populations in poor countries being the hardest hit.  Rapidly developing microbial resistance has led to a new dimension of threat posed by  infectious disease.  Although tuberculostatic medicines exist and tuberculosis and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis are treatable,  millions of people die of TB each year.   With the outbreak of SARS in 2002  it became clear that intensive intercontinental travel of humans allows dangerous infections to travel more quickly.   While in the past, the development of a global pandemic took months or even years,  the world is now faced with the possibility of pandemics spreading across the globe within a few days.  Even climate change is impacting the incidence of communicable diseases. With these startling realities in mind, preventive and containment measures for communicable diseases must be a priority.

The World Medical Association therefore called on its members to lead the national preparations for pandemic preparedness.. As part of the Caring Physicians of the World Initiative, the need for pandemic preparedness was discussed in 2005 and 2006 in three regional conferences in Prague, Tokyo, and on Amelia Island, Florida.  The recent outbreak of the New A/H1N1 Flu has demonstrated that preparatory actions taken in many countries have facilitated an effective public health response to  the rapid spread of the illness.

In 1996 the WMA issued the first version of its policy on Resistance to Antimicrobial Drugs. This policy warned that if appropriate measures were not taken, microbial resistance would become a major problem for medicine. The call for action was not heeded. With a few exceptions, no proper action was taken and the worst predictions of resistance were realised. Antimicrobial drug resistance is now one of the most common reasons for fatal outcomes in connection with infections – a reality that could have been prevented. With the cooperation of the Center for the Study of International Medical Policies and Practices - CSIMPP, George-Mason-University, Fairfax, Virginia and the International Society for Microbial Resistance, the World Medical Association updated its policy in 2008 and stresses that  urgent action is still necessary.

WMA Current Policy:

Related WMA Policy

WMA educational resources:

MDR-TB Partnership: