Health Ministers and officials from the 21 APEC members have agreed to step up their collaborative efforts to mitigate emerging, potentially catastrophic health threats to people, trade and economic security across the Asia-Pacific, the world’s most populous region and leading driver of growth.
Drawing on the lessons of Ebola and MERs and with concern over aging societies, spiking non-communicable disease rates and natural disasters due to climate change rising, Ministers and officials endorsed a Healthy Asia-Pacific 2020 Initiative roadmap. It outlines measures to be taken forward by APEC members to boost their health systems over the next five years and was finalized during a two-day meeting with health practitioners and industry groups in Cebu.
“Threats to our health systems recognize no boundaries,” explained Dr Janette Loreto-Garin, Philippine Secretary of Health and Chair of APEC High Level Meeting on Health and the Economy. “Global initiatives to enhance human development have been successful but we all know that for these initiatives to be sustained, we need to protect gains achieved from risks.”
Measures contained in the roadmap and detailed in a joint statement also issued here focus on building preparedness, prevention and response to public health emergencies, including disasters and infectious diseases; and preventing and controlling chronic disease. Additional points of emphasis include increasing awareness of mental health; improving women’s health in the workplace; and ensuring safe medicines across the different stages of international production and supply chains.
“APEC launched the healthy Asia-Pacific 2020 Initiative a year ago in Beijing to provide strategic direction for developing sustainable, high performing health systems needed to address the social and economic burden of disease,” noted Li Mingzhu, Chair of the APEC Health Working Group, which oversees the initiative, and Deputy Director-General, Department of International Cooperation at China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. “We are intent on ensuring that our economies adopt or adapt “health in all policies” as well as whole-of-government, society and region approaches as appropriate.”
“The capacity of governments in the Asia-Pacific to promote shared health objectives ultimately rests on commitment,” added Dr Ryan MacFarlane, Chair of the APEC Life Sciences Innovation Planning Forum, which also oversees the initiative, and Principal APEC Coordinator at the United States State Department. “Advancing the types of innovations and partnerships required to achieve a healthy Asia-Pacific for the future is an APEC priority.”
Building public-private partnerships to provide sustainable access to health innovations as well as promote voluntary prevention and wellness programs for employees and communities are among the planning priorities articulated in the roadmap and joint statement. Notably, they also advocate the application of a new policy toolkit to guide policymakers, businesses and non-profits towards improving women labor force participation through better health.
“Companies that create a workforce environment that acknowledges family life as important as the work environment have happier and more productive employees,” concluded Doris Ho, 2015 Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council and President and CEO of A. Magsaysay, Inc., who addressed delegates. “Key to this is helping fathers and mothers feel secure with relevant maternal and child healthcare policies.”
Click to see the Healthy Asia-Pacific 2020 Initiative Roadmap
Click to see the APEC High Level Meeting on Health and the Economy Joint Statement
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