Delegates from almost 60 national medical associations attended the annual General Assembly of the WMA in Moscow from 14 to 17 October. Among the issues discussed were:
New regulations to protect patients who use mobile health devices were adopted by the Assembly. These include devices, such as mobile phones, patient monitoring devices, personal digital assistants and health promotional apps used by people to log their calorie intake or daily activity. A new policy document urges patients and physicians to be extremely careful when using mobile health because of the potential risks and implications.
The medical profession should do far more to prevent and deal with stress and illness among physicians, delegates agreed. They adopted new guidance calling for a series of measures to improve physicians’ wellbeing. Sir Michael Marmot, President of the WMA, said: ’We are urging better wellness promotion, prevention strategies and earlier intervention to help lessen the severity of mental and physical illnesses and help reduce incidence of suicide among physicians, physicians in training and medical students.’
New legal and regulatory measures as well as social policy interventions were called for to combat the problem of alcohol-related harm, which the Assembly agreed had become a global health scourge. These included the strengthening of health systems, increased alcohol prices, regulating non-commercial alcohol, tightening the prohibition of selling to minors, regulating alcohol marketing and limiting the role of the alcohol industry in alcohol policy development.
The Assembly approved a Statement condemning the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, deployment, threat and use of nuclear weapons and requesting all governments to work in good faith towards their elimination. The WMA Council heard that there were more than 16,000 nuclear warheads held by nine countries, the vast majority by the United States and the Russian Federation, and that the use of even only a small percentage of these warheads would be a global catastrophe.
Urgent action to tackle the global health problem of street children was agreed. The Assembly adopted a statement declaring that child maltreatment is a world health problem and that prevention, early identification and comprehensive treatment of child abuse victims remain a challenge for the world medical community.
Governments should stop using riot control agents in any circumstances because of the risks to health and life, the Assembly agreed. Sir Michael Marmot said: ‘Governments are currently required to ensure that these agents are used in a manner which minimises causing serious injury and death. But how they are used determines the concentration to which individuals are exposed. If they are misused it could lead to serious harm or death. What delegates decided is that Governments should no longer use these control agents and also that in riot situations there should be unimpeded and protected access of healthcare personnel to allow them to fulfil their duty of attending to the injured.’
Following serious concern over the increase of physicians’ appearing on the mass media to recommend unproven treatments or products, delegates agreed new guidelines. These are aimed at contributing to patient safety by ensuring physicians provide accurate, timely, and objective information and preventing physicians from being involved in commercial activities that may compromise professional ethics.
The Assembly agreed that medical ethics and human rights should be taught at every medical school as obligatory and examined parts of the curriculum, and should continue at all stages of post graduate medical education and continuing professional development. Delegates agreed that failures of individual physicians to recognize the ethical obligations they owe patients and communities can damage the reputation of doctors both locally and globally. Therefore it is essential that all doctors are taught to understand and respect medical ethics and human rights from the beginning of their medical school careers.
National medical associations were urged to support continued research and education about vitamin D deficiency which effects about a third of the population. The Assembly declared that this was an important health issue globally with many studies showing that vitamin D deficiency was linked to impaired growth and development. Because of widespread occurrence of vitamin D deficiency it was important to focus attention on adequate preventive actions in populations at risk, such as young children, the elderly and pregnant women.
The WMA’s policy on the Social Determinants of Health was retitled the Declaration of Oslo.
Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health Equity at UCL, University of London and a former President of the British Medical Association, was installed as President for 2015/16.
An application for membership from the Panhellenic Medical Association was accepted, bringing the total number of WMA National Medical Associations and constituent bodies to 112.
Separate press releases were issued on: