SAHM Encourages U.S. Administration to Reverse Decision on WHO Funding
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) applauds the World Health Organization (WHO) for its guidance on the global implementation of adolescent health policies, comprehensive sexuality education, adolescent health competencies in primary care, school-based health services, and adolescent mental health. From its establishment in 1948, the WHO has continuously led international efforts to advance the health and rights of children, adolescents, and their families. As members of SAHM, we are deeply disappointed by the United States’ administration’s decision to terminate its relationship with the WHO. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO is needed more than ever.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO, in partnership with other United Nations agencies, has advised countries in maintaining essential health services on the national, regional, and local levels. Taking into consideration both local epidemiology and what is known globally about COVID-19 and its effects on youth, the WHO has put forth critical public health measures for schools, including guidance on schools reopening, hygiene, and security. To speak directly to adolescents and youth internationally, the WHO developed an online youth COVID-19 Q&A.
By withdrawing support from the WHO, the United States’ administration is signaling that the U.S. is not willing to invest in the global community; nor is it willing to benefit from the WHO’s global fund of knowledge. Such a decision leaves the U.S. isolated and vulnerable to stalled recovery efforts as COVID-19 public health efforts and safety measures are prematurely compromised. The U.S. and other countries with large populations of adolescents and young adults will be adversely impacted by waning immunity to preventable diseases (such as diphtheria, pertussis, and spinal meningitis) due to reduced vaccination rates and will require guidance for innovative strategies to offer vaccination under safe conditions. If we have learned nothing else from COVID-19, it is that the health status of one country is intrinsically connected to others around the globe.
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine urges the U.S. Administration to reverse this decision and to bolster U.S. support to the WHO for the sake of the world’s youth and the broader global community.
Jessica Kahn, MD, MPH, FSAHM
President, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine