The emergence of regional and global health epidemics - including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, avian influenza and H1N1 influenza - impacts not only the health sector but also agriculture, trade, tourism, transportation and business. APEC's wide-ranging economic work program makes it uniquely positioned to address the multi-sectoral impact of today's health threats.

In October 2003, APEC established the Health Task Force (HTF) to help address health-related threats to economies' trade and security, focusing mainly on emerging infectious diseases, including naturally occurring and man-made diseases. In 2007, as a result of a review of the APEC fora, the HTF was upgraded in status to become the Health Working Group (HWG). To respond to the recommendations of the SCE, the HWG and Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF) joint meeting was held since March 2011 in Washington DC, the United States with the purpose of exploring possible cooperation areas.

In 2015, a revised Terms of Reference (TOR) for HWG was approved by the SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE). The goal and the objectives are as follows:

Mandate

The mandate of the Health Working Group is to work with partners to improve people’s health and well-being, aiming to promote trade, security, inclusive growth and development in the APEC region.

Goal

The goal of the Health Working Group is to help reduce the impact of health-related threats to the economy, trade and security of member economies. The Health Working Group aims to strengthen health systems to increase their efficiency, responsiveness and resilience to achieve and maintain Universal Health Coverage.

Objectives

  • To enhance preparedness and response to public health emergencies and disasters, including prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases;

  • To strengthen health systems to improve accessibility, sustainability and quality of healthcare;

  • To support healthy populations across the life-course, including the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and improved maternal, newborn and child health;

  • To encourage and facilitate collaboration between health and other sectors and other APEC fora and international health bodies.

Current Activities

The 1st HWG meeting in 2015 was held in Clark, the Philippines on Jan 26-27. Director Maylene Beltran of the Philippine Bureau of International Health Cooperation was elected vice-chair (Philippines). The APEC 2015 Theme of “Building Inclusive Economies. Building a Better World.” was introduced in this meeting, including the priorities for APEC 2015.

The joint session with other APEC fora and International organizations, including LSIF, PPWE,  SME, HRDWG, and WHO.

The 2nd  HWG meeting in 2015 was held in Cebu, the Philippines on Aug 28-29. Director Maylene Beltran, the HWG Vice-Chair, presented the reflections and the next steps of The Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 Amidst Disasters and Outbreaks: Lessons Learned and Practices after the event of Health Policy Dialogue on Aug 27 in Cebu.

The HWG deliverables for 2015 including:

    • Statement of the 5thAPEC High-Level Meeting on Health & the Economy

    • Follow-up road map for the “Healthy Asia-Pacific 2020” Initiative.

    • An updated working group terms of reference .

    • The guidelines for engagement between the working group and the private sector.

    • Health emergency response working manual for health hotline.

    • Reviewed and initiated implementation of the “APEC Roadmap to Promote Mental Wellness in a Healthy Asia Pacific”.

    • Checklist of policy recommendations and best practices that governments, businesses, and NGOs can use to improve female labor force participation through better health.

The HWG updated its Terms of Reference (TOR) by the HWG Independent Assessment in 2014, the major updates were on the mandate, goal and objective which focus on improving people’s health and well-being that strengthen health systems in achieving UHC and effective response to public health emergencies. As to its membership, each economy may invite advisors, observers, and representatives from relevant international organizations to attend the HWG’s meeting and activities but the invitation and representation will be decided on a consensus by HWG members and will be in accordance with APEC Guidelines.

Dr. Victor Cuba (Peru) was elected as the HWG Chair 2016-2017.

Achievements

The APEC Action Plan on the Prevention and Response to Avian and Influenza Pandemics was developed in 2006 by the HTF. The Plan was endorsed at a special APEC Ministerial Meeting on Avian and Influenza Pandemics held in Da Nang, Viet Nam in May 2006. Other guidelines on pandemics and HIV/AIDS were also developed - namely, the APEC Functioning Economies in Times of Pandemic Guidelines and the Guidelines for Creating an Enabling Environment for Employers to Implement Effective Workplace Practice for People Living with HIV/AIDS.

In addition, APEC Leaders have agreed to support the sharing of influenza specimens in a timely manner and to promote transparent, fair and equitable access to vaccines and other benefits that derive from them.

At the HWG's main meeting in August 2009, members supported the strengthening of cooperation with ASEAN, with a view to sharing information on regional experiences and initiatives. ASEAN representatives were invited to attend the HWG meeting activities going forward and HWG members will endeavour to attend ASEAN meetings when invited.

In the 2009 APEC Leaders' Declaration, Leaders reaffirmed to build regional capacity for avian influenza and other potential emergency and sub-emergency diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. Leaders also emphasised strengthening the region's health systems and cooperation to prevent and control emerging infectious diseases.

In 2010, a new Framework to Guide ECOTECH Activities was put in place to guide the work of the HWG. "Human Security" was identified as one of the medium-term priorities for all APEC economies to work towards.

In February 2012, the HWG initiative on improving maternal and child welfare across the APEC region will be carried out in 2012, focusing on protecting women’s health and lowering infant mortality rates.

In June 2012, a High Level Dialogue on Health and the Economy was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. HWG members acknowledged that health is an economic asset that should be preserved and enhanced to drive sustainable economic growth.

In April 2013, a “Health Policy Dialogue on Getting to Zero on HIV and AIDS to Support Sustainable Growth in the Asia Pacific Region” was held in Surabaya, Indonesia. Some recommendations were made to be sent to the APEC Ministers for endorsement.

In July 2013, the HWG Strategic Plan was endorsed in Medan during SOM3.

In 2014, the endorsement during the Fourth APEC High Level Meeting on Health & the Economy (HLM4) of the “Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 Initiative” was providing guidance for actions to develop sustainable and high performing health systems to address the social and economic burden of disease.

In August 2015, HLM5 agreed that the Roadmap for the “Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 Initiative”, developed jointly by the Health Working Group (HWG) and the Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF), cover five Critical Success Factors and relevant Key Actions to ensure that the Initiative is implemented in a meaningful, sustainable, and cost-effective way. Implementation of the Roadmap aims to mitigate threats to the region’s people, trade, and economic security and should be adapted as appropriate by each member economy. Critical Success Factors in the Roadmap are: 1) government commitment to health; 2) platforms for policy dialogue and stakeholder engagement; 3) promoting prevention, control, and awareness; 4) innovation; and, 5) inter-sectoral and cross-border collaboration.

Contacts

Victor Cuba (Mr)

Director General
General Office of International Cooperation
Ministry of Health
Peru
Email: vcuba@minsa.gob.pe
Maria de los Angeles Zapata Rodriguez (Ms)

Bureau for International Cooperation
Department of International Cooperation
Ministry of Health
Peru
Email: mzapatar@minsa.gob.pe
David Wu (Mr)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat
Email: dw15@apec.org

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