Did the week-long World Health Assembly accomplish anything?

At the close of the week-long meeting of the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, it’s worth asking what was accomplished in Geneva to advance global health.

The WHO, which is supposed to set priorities and establish guidelines for the international community’s many efforts aimed at improving health or fighting disease, received the most attention for delaying a decision on whether or not to recommend finally destroying all remaining samples of smallpox virus.

As the Associated Press reported:

After two days of heated debate, the 193-nation World Health Assembly agreed by consensus to a compromise that calls for another review in 2014.

It’s a debate that’s been going on since 1986, following the 1980 eradication of this deadly and terrifying disease. The U.S. and Russia, which hold the remaining known smallpox stockpiles, opposed destruction in favor of continuing research. Most other countries wanted the scourge totally removed from the planet.

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