Breaking Down GA Positions at 74th WHA-USDHHS Stakeholder Listening Session

Prior to the 74th World Health Assembly (held from May 24-June 1, 2021) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) Office of Global Affairs hosted a Listening Session on May 13th, 2021, to help provide the U.S. delegation to the World Health Assembly with knowledge, ideas, and feedback from national organizations invested in global health matters. The Global Alliance was represented at the Listening Session by Evelyn Tomaszewski, Gita Jaffe, and Surasya Guduru. In recognition of the urgent need to prioritize individual and community mental health, the Global Alliance was given the opportunity to provide statements on a variety of concerns we have historically advocated for.

In line with our comprehensive statement, our individual statements during the Listening Session were developed in accordance with the provisional agenda for the 74th World Health Assembly. Divided into three pillars, the provisional agenda is grouped according to the following goals:

  • Pillar 1: “One billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage”
  • Pillar 2: “One billion more people better protected from health emergencies”
  • Pillar 3: “One billion more people enjoying better health and well-being”

Under Pillar 1, our position focused on the need to recognize mental health and psycho-social stressors as critical to include in the promotion of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). As such, we encouraged the development of comprehensive, community-based psychosocial services and the integration of behavioral health care and treatment into general hospitals and primary care. Further, we emphasized that sustaining comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings requires governance level-support, equitable community allocation, and stakeholder collaboration. Also included in this position was our call for a “renewed’ mandate to drive forward a novel healthcare workforce action plan and investment agenda– one that prioritizes trained, supported, and resourced mental health and behavioral health providers in evidence-based prevention and intervention and treatment approaches. 

Under Pillar 2, our statement built upon the WHO’s efforts to integrate mental health and psychosocial support as part of the COVID-19 public health emergency response. We suggested that this must include equitable allocation of resources across communities and countries and demands support of resourced efforts to improve the lives of all persons worldwide who have, or are of developing, mental illness–particularly those who reside in low-resourced settings. This position highlighted our support of actions that address not only the disparities exacerbated by the current global health pandemic, but also of those which encourage and source culturally relevant and innovative solutions to community-based services. As such, we are better able to meet the complex needs of persons with mental, neurological and substance use disorders while supporting mental health and psychosocial wellness across the life course.

We concluded our statements under Pillar 3, illustrating the profound impact of stigma and discrimination across disenfranchised communities and highlighting numerous barriers to mental health care and social inclusion. [i] Our statement declared urgent need to address the impact of governance and policy that negatively perpetuate socioeconomic and health disparities. Calling upon Sustainable Development Goal 3, "to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages," we urged Member States to enact governance level policies and initiatives that address the social determinants of health—aligned with a strong focus on mental health.

This final assertion fundamentally encompassed the core of our position—in essence, a call for structural reforms that ensure increased confidence in the safety and effectiveness of mental and behavioral health care and work aggressively to remove systemic barriers to psychosocial wellness. In the wake of our present global health crisis, mental and behavioral health can no longer wait to be prioritized. Together and alone, we must act now.

Please read our full statement here.

This blog post was written by Global Alliance member, Surasya Guduru, and does not necessarily represent the policy position of the Global Alliance.


[i] Rose-Clarke, K., Gurung, D., Brooke-Sumner, C., et. al. (2020). Rethinking research on the social determinants of global mental health.

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