Pilot project to support implementation of the WHO Framework for Meaningful Engagement in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region

Throughout 2024 and 2025, WHO will support member states in the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) region through a two-year pilot project focused on advancing the implementation of the WHO Framework on Meaningful Engagement of people living with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), mental health, and neurological conditions. 

Implementation efforts will focus on people living with and affected by cancer in six WHO Member States in the region and will mark the first funded initiative dedicated to operationalization of the WHO Framework on Meaningful Engagement at regional level. 

The escalating crisis of NCDs presents a substantial challenge to global health, with a particularly acute impact in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. Within this domain, cancer stands out as an especially pressing issue. As of 2019, NCDs were responsible for 74% of all global deaths. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region alone, nearly 400,000 people die annually from cancer, making it one of the top four leading causes of death within this region. The Eastern Mediterranean Region balances this high prevalence of cancer alongside many other multi-faceted health system challenges, such as disruptions to health service delivery due to political unrest, limited health care infrastructure, cultural stigmas, and impacts from COVID-19 and the stress the pandemic has had on already strained healthcare systems. 

The right to participate is a human right and an essential feature of the right to health, and participatory approaches in public health, inclusive of individuals with lived experience, have been recognized for their value in helping institutions and policy makers better understand barriers and identify solutions to existing and planned policies, programs, and services. And yet, the specific notion of 'meaningful engagement' of individuals with lived experiences of cancer is relatively unexplored. More is needed to develop a robust evidence base on the impact of meaningful engagement and how to implement these approaches most effectively in a regional context. 

In line with this, the goals of the project are to: 

  1. Support country level dialogue, engagement, and dissemination at national and sub-national levels among people affected by cancer, policy makers, and other stakeholders. 
  2. Conduct a needs assessment for interventions required to implement, contextualize, and adapt the WHO Framework for Meaningful Engagement at country level.
  3. Support training and capacity building of national and sub-national leaders to effectively use the WHO Framework for Meaningful Engagement and other related tools to operationalize meaningful engagement in selected countries. 
  4. Outline actionable recommendations to further implement, adapt and contextualize the WHO Framework for Meaningful Engagement across the region.  

Work will be conducted in three phases over the two-year timeline of the project. The first phase will focus on Setting the Scene through stakeholder mapping and initial country-level scoping to better understand local contexts and establish methodological approaches for participatory activities. The second phase will focus on Listening and Learning, through the implementation of diverse and inclusive multistakeholder dialogues at country level to support the meaningful engagement of people living with or affected by cancer. The last phase, Analyzing and Strategizing, will focus on synthesizing inputs from the participatory process and developing recommended next steps to further support operationalization of the WHO Framework for Meaningful Engagement at country level and across the region. 

This area of work is a collaborative effort between the WHO Regional Office of the Eastern Mediterranean and the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs. WHO is also grateful to Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for their generous support in enhancing the lived experience work stream of the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism. The current goals of the lived experience workstream of the WHO GCM/NCD is to provide strategic and technical support to advancing meaningful engagement and the greater involvement of individuals with lived experience in the lead up to the next UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in 2025, and in developing and enhancing GCM/NCD initiatives promoting innovative engagement models and platforms.

WHO is currently recruiting for a technical consultant to support WHO EMRO on this project. WHO will also be announcing opportunities in 2024 for people living with or affected by cancer and other stakeholders to participate in upcoming country-level multistakeholder dialogues.