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The emergence of regional and global health epidemics - including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, avian influenza and H1N1 influenza - has highlighted the impact that threats to public health can have on a broad range of sectors including agriculture, trade, tourism, transportation and business. APEC's leadership in the region and its wide-ranging economic work programmes make it uniquely suited to address the multi-sectoral impact of today's health threats.

In October 2003, APEC established the Health Task Force (HTF) to 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).

In 2010, a new Terms of Reference (TOR) for the SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE) was endorsed by APEC Senior Officials. The mandated work areas of the HWG include:

  • Coordinate and supervise the HWG and provide policy guidance on the Economic and Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) agenda;
  • Assess and direct realignment of work plans of the HWG with the APEC-wide medium-term ECOTECH Priorities and annual objectives as outlined in the ECOTECH framework;
  • Approve and rank all ECOTECH-related projects proposals ahead of presentation to the BMC;
  • Evaluate the progress of the HWG in implementing and achieving APEC's ECOTECH priorities;
  • Compile progress and evaluation reports of the HWG for review and report to Senior Officials; and
  • Review the role and operations of the HWG, with a view to making recommendations to Senior Officials on establishing merging, disbanding or reorienting this body.

To respond to the recommendations of the SCE, the first HWG and Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF) joint meeting was held in March 2011 in Washington DC, the United States with the purpose of exploring possible cooperation areas.

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The 1st HWG meeting in 2014 was held in Ningbo, China on Feb 23-24. The initiative “Healthy Asia-Pacific 2020” proposed by China was endorsed at the meeting. A joint Health Working Group and Life Sciences Innovation Forum session was held in Ningbo. HWG members at the joint session agreed to explore the possibility of holding the 4th High Level Meeting on Health and Economy during the Third Senior Officials' Meeting in August 2014.

Highlights of Current Projects (Selected):

The Health Working Group is implementing a wide variety of projects. Below are highlights of some of the current projects.

Workshop on the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Risk Factors Control through Community-Based Intervention 

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and diabetes are causing 36 million fatalities every year, which constitutes 63% of the total of global fatality rate, including 9.1 million premature deaths before the age of 60 in low and middle income countries, including APEC economies. NCDs are silent diseases that generate serious social and economic impacts. Awareness raising campaigns on the impacts and early prevention of NCDs by controlling the risk factors such as obesity or smoking is the most effective way to overcome the fatalities caused by NCDs. These risk factors could be tackled through community-based intervention or collaboration between community leaders and health workers. This project intends to promote the appropriate community-based intervention model for the APEC region through a workshop and guidebook.

Capacity Building in HIV and Clinical Infectious Diseases for APEC Economies

Infectious diseases remain a major public health problem in the APEC region. This capacity building project, led by Singapore, offers training and expertise in four key areas; HIV, antimicrobial stewardship, outpatient parenteral antibiotic therapy and infection control.  The South and South-East Asia ranks second in shouldering HIV burden in the world. This project is working towards zero new HIV infections, and zero HIV-related deaths, particularly through HIV prevention programs in the APEC region, as outlined by APEC Ministers in 2013 in Bali. This project intends to elevate the knowledge and skill of health care professionals in the region on HIV management. Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern as many APEC Economies have high prevalence of antimicrobial resistance. In reducing the emerging and spreading of multi-drug resistant organisms, this project provides training in Antimicrobial Stewardship Program (ASP), Infection Control and Outpatient Parenteral Antibiotic Therapy (OPAT).

Public Risk Communication and Rumors Surveillance through Health Hotlines

This project, led by China, is designed to share the successful experiences of risk communication and rumors surveillance for health hotline response to public health emergencies and emerging public health issues in China and other APEC economies, and to enhance the capacity of health hotline response by holding a workshop and a training course at the provincial level in China and other economies from late January through December in 2014 in China. Health hotlines play important roles in health emergencies and epidemics. Public risk communication through health hotlines release information about the epidemics and disease prevention, answer the public’s related questions and appeased public feelings. Information and data collected the hotline can also used to inform government health and epidemic responses.

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. The medium-term priorities will be reviewed again by 2015.

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.

Mingzhu LI (Mr)
Deputy Director General
Department of International Cooperation
National Health and Family Planning Commission
People’s Republic of China
Tel: 68792293
Fax: 68792286
SHAO Meng (Ms)
Chair’s Assistant
Program Officer Division of Asia-Pacific Affairs
Department of International Cooperation
National Health and Family Planning Commission
People’s Republic of China
Tel: +86 10 6879 2297
Fax: +86 10 6879 2295
David WU (Mr)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat
30 - 31 Aug 2015 High Level Meeting (HLM) on Health and the Economy Cebu, Philippines
28 - 29 Aug 2015 Health Working Group (HWG) Cebu, Philippines
27 Aug 2015 Health Policy Dialogue: Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 amidst Disasters and Outbreaks: Lessons Learned and Promising Practices Cebu, Philippines
26 Aug 2015 Health Policy Dialogue Manila, Philippines
24 - 25 Aug 2015 Healthy Women, Healthy Economy Checklist Workshop Manila, Philippines
24 - 26 Aug 2015 Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Workshop Cebu, Philippines
24 - 29 Aug 2015 Health Working Group (HWG) Cebu, Philippines
27 Jan 2015 Health Working Group (HWG) Meeting Clark, Philippines
26 Jan 2015 Health Working Group (HWG) Meeting Clark, Philippines