The 77th World Health Assembly: Making mental health a priority

Written by Jo Harrison, Director of Communications


The 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 27 to June 1, 2024 where we anticipate it will be one of the most mental health-focused gatherings yet.

Discussions will be held on the impact of mental health on topics ranging from climate change to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to humanitarian crises. And the World Health Organisation (WHO) will discuss a draft of the 14th General Programme of Work, known as the ‘GPW-14’ – WHO’s strategy from 2025-2028.

Four things to look out for at the WHA

1. NCD and mental health finance

The draft GPW-14 (WHO’s new strategy) has two strategic objectives related to NCDs and mental health. Mental health will be a core focus of the upcoming International Dialogue on Sustainable Financing for NCDs and Mental Health in June 2024 and the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs and Mental Health in September 2025. UnitedGMH is one of two CSOs on the International Financing Dialogue Steering Committee, and Sarah Kline is on the External Technical Expert Group (ETEG).

We expect discussions at the WHA to primarily focus on funding, and we are preparing to launch a briefing outlining the benefits of integrating mental health into NCD financing.

2. WHO’s 14th General Programme of Work

During the 77th World Health Assembly, the WHO will discuss the draft GPW-14 (the WHO’s 3-year strategy), which is notable for mental health being central to two of its strategic objectives.

Not only is mental health integrated throughout the document, but the WHO has given more specificity about how they plan to tackle the rising rates of mental ill-health. For the first time, the WHO has a specific indicator to improve service coverage for people with mental health conditions, and there is a specific commitment to improving quality and access to mental health services.

We are pleased the tide is turning on mental health, which was once seen as ‘nice to have.’ However, with the strategy still in draft form, we will continue to advocate for its inclusion throughout the assembly.

3. Mental health and climate change

The WHA is set to adopt a resolution on health and climate. Mental health is included, albeit minimally, by recognising how “increasingly frequent extreme weather events and conditions are taking a rising toll on people’s well-being, livelihoods and physical and mental health.” This is however, progress for the issue (no mention was made about mental health in a previous 2008 WHA resolution on climate and health). We will call for mental health to be fully integrated into the climate and health resolution and in the subsequent Global Plan of Action.

We know that climate change is already having a direct impact on people’s mental health. One study found that the cost of mental health conditions as a direct result of climate-related hazards, air pollution and inadequate access to green space is projected to cost the global economy nearly $47 billion per year by 2030. This resolution must be just the start of integrating mental health into actions to respond to climate and environmental threats.

4. Mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies

The WHA is set to adopt a resolution on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in emergencies. With the world experiencing many humanitarian emergencies, the MHPSS resolution is much needed and must be acted upon immediately. With the MHPSS UNGA resolution last year, member states are in no doubt of the severity of the global situation and the need for coordinated action.

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change makes extreme weather events such as storms and floods more frequent and intense. These events are likely to have significant mental health implications both due to direct exposure to potentially traumatic events, and by worsening social determinants of mental health such as employment and housing.

Mental health financing for emergencies needs to increase, be well coordinated, and span the humanitarian-development nexus. This means the World Bank and other multilateral and bilateral donors must commit to increasing investment in addressing emergencies.

United for Global Mental Health will be closely tracking official proceedings specifically:

  • Agenda item 11.1 Universal Health Coverage
  • Agenda item 11.2 Follow-up to the political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases
  • Agenda item 11.5 End TB Strategy
  • Agenda item 11.7 Acceleration towards the Sustainable Development Goal targets for maternal health and child mortality
  • Agenda item 14.1 WHO’s work in health emergencies
  • Agenda item 15.1 Social determinants of health
  • Agenda item 15.4 Climate change, pollution and health
  • Agenda item 17 Draft fourteenth general programme of work, 2025–2028


For those keen on monitoring proceedings, the WHA77 landing page provides access to the live stream, essential documents such as the provisional agenda, and other relevant resources. This page keeps you updated on the assembly’s latest happenings.


Download our WHA calendar here