DALLAS and GENEVA, May 31, 2023 — Global efforts to improve emergency, critical and operative care for universal health coverage and protection from health emergencies were announced at the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. With the support of its partners the American Heart Association and the Laerdal Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), announced an initiative based on a new acute care resolution that was approved at this year’s World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO.

Nearly 30 million deaths are due to emergency conditions each year, contributing to half of global deaths. The acute disease burden in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is 4.4 times that of high-income countries[1]. The Acute Care Action Network (ACAN), a global alliance bringing together stakeholder organizations, was announced as a global strategic effort to amplify the WHO’s work to impact health conditions addressed by acute care.

“The pandemic revealed pervasive gaps in capacity of emergency, critical and operative care services. These gaps cost many their lives – we saw significant avoidable mortality and morbidity globally,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “The American Heart Association shares ACAN’s goal to strengthen acute care delivery in low- and middle-income countries through the development, dissemination and evaluation of WHO’s tools and resources, in order to save millions of lives around the world.”

Over the past decade, WHO has developed a suite of tools and resources to support the development of effective emergency care systems around the world.

“The Laerdal Foundation is delighted to further strengthen our collaboration with the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association on the Acute Care Action Network initiative,” said Tore Laerdal, the Foundation’s executive director.

The new WHO initiative spotlights that emergency, critical and operative care services are an integral part of a comprehensive primary health care approach.

“Robust acute care services are essential to health systems’ ability to meet population health needs and to respond effectively to emergency events,” said Rudi Eggers, Director of Integrated Health Services at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva. “The Acute Care Action Network will support collaboration for impact, bringing stakeholders together for coordinated action, with an emphasis on limited-resources and vulnerable settings.”

ACAN emphasizes that timely access is an essential component of quality emergency, critical and operative care services and could prevent millions of deaths and long-term disability from injuries, infections, mental health conditions, acute exacerbations of noncommunicable diseases, acute complications of pregnancy and other health conditions.

For more information: https://www.who.int/teams/integrated-health-services/clinical-services-and-systems/emergency--critical-and-operative-care.

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[1] Razzak J, Usmani MF, Bhutta ZA. Global, regional and national burden of emergency medical diseases using specific emergency disease indicators: analysis of the 2015 Global Burden of Disease Study. BMJ Glob Health. 2019 Mar 30;4(2):e000733. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2018-000733. PMID: 30997158; PMCID: PMC6441258.