PATH welcomes World Health Organization Executive Board decision to adopt landmark oxygen resolution

February 3, 2023 by PATH

The resolution urges member states to undertake high-impact actions to sustain gains and drive progress toward equitable oxygen access across all populations, communities, and countries.

PATH applauds the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board’s decision to recommend to the seventy sixth World Health Assembly the adoption of the resolution on increasing access to medical oxygen. The draft decision was submitted by Uganda and co-sponsored by Australia, Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, the European Union and its 27 member states, Kenya, and Turkey.

Oxygen access has been a long-neglected element of health systems planning, despite being an essential treatment for a range of diseases. Almost half of all hospitals in low- and middle-income countries have an inconsistent supply of medical oxygen or lack it entirely. Even fewer have functional pulse oximeters—devices that measure blood oxygen levels and help health workers to determine oxygen delivery and dosages.

“Oxygen is essential to sustaining and saving lives,” said Lisa Smith, Access to Medical Devices Portfolio Director, PATH. “Over the last two years, countries have made great strides in improving access to oxygen as a critical treatment for COVID-19—both by increasing immediate procurement and distribution of oxygen equipment and by propelling action toward long-term oxygen systems. The world must maintain this momentum to ensure these gains are not lost.”

Translating pandemic investments into sustained respiratory care services will require coordinated efforts across financing, health system and device infrastructure, operations and maintenance, clinical training, data systems, policy design, and advocacy.

The WHO Executive Board decision is a key step in that process, as it recognizes and reaffirms the critical role of medical oxygen in resilient health systems planning and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for health. It upholds the urgency of sustaining investment in oxygen production and supply and calls on global stakeholders and national governments to continue alignment and coordination, including on policies and guidelines, technical documents, and training.

“The resolution elevates the issue of oxygen access to ensure it remains a targeted focus among the various competing health priorities,” said Ms. Smith. “PATH calls on WHO Member States and global agencies to join together in support of this important agenda at the World Health Assembly in May 2023 and beyond, as we move together toward its implementation.”

View the WHO Executive Board deliberations on the oxygen resolution, Session 5, here.