World Health Assembly Watch 2017

Lena Vennberg from Vårdförbundet, Sweden was the first person from a PSI affiliate to participate in the annual WHA Watch organised for young health professionals, academics and activists by the People’s Health Movement held in May in Geneva. In an increasingly globalised world, this is an invaluable dimension of capacity-building for young health workers. It is also part of the PSI strategy of building closer collaboration with the civil society movement.

Lena shares her experience. We hope that more health affiliates will be interested in sending their young members for the next WHA Watch in May 2018, as well as the WHO Executive Board Watch in January next year.

My name is Lena Vennberg and I am 27 years old. I am from Sweden and I work as a nurse at a health centre. This year, I had the opportunity to participate in the WHA Watch Team during the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

My trade union, Vårdförbundet, is an affiliate of PSI and for the first time, PSI had the opportunity to be represented by a participant in the Watch team. The team met during the week before the WHA and worked around the clock to develop statements and policy briefs for submission to the WHA on behalf of civil society.

During the Assembly, our major task was to monitor discussions and bring in the voice of civil society. Participating in the Watch team was very intensive period, but also fun. I learnt a lot about global health politics and how they function. It was very inspiring and the experience will be extremely useful for my future commitment and career as a health professional and trade unionist.

As PSI's first member on the Watch team, I would like to offer some tips for future candidates and PSI: the participation should be validated as early as possible so that the "Watcher" can get prepared and receive information in advance. As a participant, it is also necessary to have a good grasp of the English language. I sometimes struggled a bit with this.

After having participated in such an experience, it was a bit disappointing to come back home without an agenda for how to use the wonderful knowledge I gained. Therefore, it would be good to have some form of follow-up and perhaps guidance on how to proceed with using the information learnt.

If anyone has any questions or concerns about my experience in the WHA Watch Team, I will gladly answer them. Please write to me via

This article is an extract from the “Right to Health” newsletter issue 03/2017. Subscribe to the newsletter. Send us your stories.