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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. The second HWG-LSIF joint event on Health & the Economy: “Investing in a Healthy Life Course” was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia on June 27, 2012. The Third HWG-LSIF joint meeting on Health and the Economy is scheduled to be held in Bali, Indonesia in September, 2013.

The first HWG meeting in 2013 was held in Surabaya, Indonesia on April 11-12. Both the Emergency Preparedness Working Group and the ASEAN Secretariat were invited to deliver presentations at the HWG meeting to promote synergies in health.

Back to back with the HWG meeting, a "Health Policy Dialogue on Getting to Zero on HIV and AIDS to Support Sustainable Growth in the Asia Pacific Region" was held. Recommendations were made to be sent to APEC Ministers for endorsement.

The 2nd HWG meeting in 2013 was held in Medan, Indonesia on July 1-2 at SOM 3.  At the meeting, HWG members discussed and endorsed the HWG Strategic Plan 2013-2015. The HWG Strategic Plan will serve as guidance for planning and evaluating future HWG projects and activities.

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2013 Activities

In 2013, HWG held its 1st meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia in April, followed by a Health Policy Dialogue on “Getting to Zero on HIV and AIDS to Support Sustainable Growth.”

The 2nd HWG meeting was held in Medan, Indonesia. At this meeting, the HWG Strategic Plan 2013-2015 was discussed and endorsed.

The 1st Joint HWG/LSIF Roundtable Dialogue on Traditional Medicines was held on 3 July, followed by the 1st APEC HWG/LSIF Dialogue on Mental Health. HWG members are currently reviewing the recommendations that came out of these joint Dialogues.

On 4 July 2013, HWG/LSIF Joint Dialogue on Health Associated Infections (HAIs) was held in Medan, Indonesia. Report and recommendations are currently being reviewed by HWG members.

HWG and LSIF are scheduled to hold the 3rd APEC High Level Meeting on Health and the Economy on 20-21 September in Bali, immediately after the APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting. A joint Statement is scheduled to be announced after the HLM on Health and the Economy.

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
Steve CHEN (Mr)
Program Director
APEC Secretariat