Health ministers and senior officials from the Commonwealth member countries have concluded a key meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, with nations pledging to enhance health system resilience. 

The gathering focused on preparing for future health shocks and addressing the needs of small and vulnerable states. 

A total of 56 member countries from across the Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Pacific are associated with the Commonwealth.  

The 36th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (36CHMM), held between 24 and 25 May 2024, allowed participating health ministers and senior officials to discuss actionable solutions to fortify health systems against future challenges. 

Key agendas of 36CHMM included developing climate-resilient health systems, addressing the global shortage of health workers, and managing the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). 

In addition, the meeting, chaired by the Government of Kiribati, saw over 40 ministers and heads of delegation agree on several commitments.  

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These included collaboration with environmental ministries to build climate-resilient health systems, strategies to mitigate health worker migration impact, and implementation of 2023 UN Political Declarations on Universal Health Coverage, pandemic related preparedness, response, and prevention, and tuberculosis. 

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Our ability to prepare for shocks, but also to minimise the negative consequences of such disruptions, and recover and adapt, is one of the biggest indicators for how we can protect and promote the health and wellbeing of our populations. And among those most at risk are small and vulnerable states.” 

The 36CHMM also served as a precursor to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to take place from 21 to 25 October 2024 in Apia, Samoa.  

Under the theme “One Resilient Common Future: Transforming our Common Wealth,” CHOGM will spotlight resilience issues within the Commonwealth. 

At 36CHMM, health ministers requested several actions for CHOGM consideration, such as reaffirming commitments to combat cervical cancer, neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and antimicrobial resistance.  

They also called for increased adaptation finance for health, particularly for climate-vulnerable nations such as Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and for strengthening global health governance by continuing negotiations on Pandemic Agreement and amending the International Health Regulations.