WHO priorities to improve global access to asthma care

Dr Sarah Rylance*, WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a mandate to improve access to asthma care as part of the broader non-communicable disease (NCD) agenda. The WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs (2013-2030) includes a voluntary target of 80% availability of the affordable basic technologies and essential medicines, required to treat major NCDs in both public and private facilities.(1)

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes specific targets relating to NCD prevention and treatment (target 3.4) and universal health coverage and access to essential medicines (target 3.8).(2)

The 13th General Programme of Work defines WHO strategy across the 3 levels of the organisation. Under the target “one billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage”, outcome 1.3 addresses improved access to essential medicines for primary health care.(3) The issue of effective care extends beyond access to safe, effective, quality-assured and affordable inhaled medicines: inhalers must be available within the context of a health system which can support the timely diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of asthma. Asthma care must be integrated at primary care level, to reach all those who need it.

The WHO Package of Essential Noncommunicable (PEN) Disease Interventions targets primary health care in low-resource settings and contains protocols for the assessment, diagnosis, and management of asthma. (4)

Raising awareness and advocating for improved care for people with asthma requires a collaborative, multistakeholder approach. Examples of WHO-led collaborations are the Global Alliance Against Chronic Respiratory Diseases and the Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.


  1. World Health Organization. Global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013-2020. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2013.
  2. United Nations. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  3. World Health Organization. The Thirteenth General Programme of Work, 2019-2023. Geneva, Switzerland; 2019.
  4. World Health Organization. WHO package of essential noncommunicable (PEN) disease interventions for primary health care. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020.