Health Working Group

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, after 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 Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation (SCE), the HWG and Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF) met in March 2011 in Washington DC, with the purpose of exploring possible areas of cooperation.

The HWG has launched several initiatives to introduce more substantive policy discussions into the working group’s activities as well better integrating APEC’s work within the broader global health agenda.

In addition to engaging with other APEC fora and international organizations like the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Association of South East Asian Nations, the HWG has positioned itself as a regional health forum dedicated to demonstrating the value of health to economic growth and development and to building awareness of the return on investment on health innovation.

The HWG’s mandate, 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, other APEC fora and international health bodies

Last page update: July 2021

Current Activities

The Health Working Group (HWG) has held one meeting in 2021, on the margins of the first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM1) (the meeting report can be found here). The HWG will hold its second meeting in 2021, on the margins of the third Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM3).

During its first meeting, the HWG endorsed its Dementia Spotlight Report. As agreed during the 9th APEC High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy (HLM9), the HWG developed a “Dementia Spotlight Report” to facilitate the sharing of successful policies and programs and encourage regional collaboration. APEC HWG member economies submitted a project or initiative that their respective economy has undertaken with regards to dementia and healthy ageing. The Dementia Spotlight report has been submitted to World Health Organization’s Global Dementia Observatory knowledge exchange platform.

During its first meeting, the HWG also endorsed its 2021 Work Plan.

The work plan recognizes how the COVID-19 global pandemic has demonstrated just how a health issue can quickly have detrimental impacts to an economy’s population and economic future.

While responding to COVID-19, member economies are also working to maintain other essential health services across the life course of people. However, prevention and treatment services for both infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have been increasingly disrupted as the implementation of public health measures to mitigate community transmission of the virus continues to affect access and delivery of key health services and programs.

In addition, COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated existing challenges faced by our health systems, including barriers to access healthcare and health services. It has also raised social and economic inequalities, which have been magnified by the disproportionate impact of the crisis on the poor, women, children, Indigenous peoples and others in vulnerable and at-risk situations.

Nonetheless, the pandemic has resulted in innovation in the research and development of medical countermeasures, as well as the use of digital technology and tools to help overcome current constraints. While the implementation of these solutions was a result of challenges faced by economies in the short term, they will provide the basis for positive improvements to health systems in the long term.

Consequently, the HWG seeks to facilitate the collaboration and information exchange needed to: 1) support the development of policies to contain the virus; 2) rebuild economies; and 3) achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and the 2030 Agenda, while supporting and aligning with the work of key partners such as the World Health Organization.

This will be actualized in 2021 through the HWG’s theme “Response, Rebalance, Recover. Together.”

These activities spanned across a variety of governance, policy and technical deliverables.

Governance deliverables

  • Two Health Working Group Meetings (February 2021 – SOM1 and August 2021 – SOM3)

  • Supporting the APEC SCE’s assessment of the Health Working Group

  • Discussion of the “The North Star” – A Healthy Asia-Pacific Strategic Document (March 2021 – SOM1) and Endorsement (August 2021 – SOM3)

  • Reviewing the HWG’s progress in achieving the HWG Strategic Plan 2021-2025, through the Critical Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators (August 2021 – SOM3)

  • HWG Report to the SCE (November 2021)

HWG policy/technical deliverables

  • Vaccination Program of Work 2020-2021
  • Policy Discussion: COVID-19 Vaccination – Roll-out and Addressing Vaccine Confidence (February 2021 – SOM1)
  • Policy Discussion: Protecting Gains from Immunization Programs in the Control of Vaccine Preventable Infectious Diseases (August 2021 – SOM3)
  • Policy Discussion: Addressing Non-Communicable Diseases Across the Life Course (March 2021 – SOM1)
  • Development and Endorsement of “Good Practices on Public Policies in Childhood Nutrition” (August 2021 – SOM3)
  • Development and Endorsement of “Good Practices for Healthy Ageing” (August 2021 – SOM3)

  • Policy Discussion: Leveraging Digital Technologies to Address COVID-19 and Sustain Innovation to Support Health Systems (August 2021 – SOM3)

Cross-fora policy/technical deliverables

  • Post-2020 APEC Roadmap to Promote Mental Wellness in a Healthy Asia Pacific (February 2021 – SOM1 and August 2021 – SOM3)
  • Joint Emergency Preparedness Working Group (EPWG) and HWG Policy Dialogue – Strengthening Health Systems Resilience: Post COVID-19 (August 2021 – SOM3) (TBC)
  • Collaboration with Life Sciences and Innovation Forum (LSIF) to host the 11th High Level Meeting on Health and the Economy and develop a Joint Statement. (August 2021)

 

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Achievements

Health

The “APEC Action Plan on the Prevention and Response to Avian and Influenza Pandemics” was developed in 2006 by the Health Task Force. The plan was endorsed at a special APEC Ministerial Meeting on Avian and Influenza Pandemics held in Da Nang, Viet Nam in May 2006.

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Dato’ Dr Chong Chee Kheong

Deputy Director General of Health (Public Health)
Ministry of Health Malaysia, Putrajaya, Malaysia
[email protected]
Assisted by Ms Nurain Khairi [email protected]

Mr Michael PEARSON

Branch Head, Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio
Government of Canada
[email protected]

Ms Aurora TSAI

Program Director
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