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:
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.
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.
- 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: November 2022
HWG Plenary Meetings in 2022 and Main Outcomes
1. HWG – LSIF Joint Meeting
- On 15 February 2022, the APEC Health Working Group (HWG) convened its Joint Virtual Meeting with the former Life Sciences Innovation Forum (LSIF, sunset on 31 March 2022) to address clarification questions made by member economies on activities under LSIF; discussed the alignment of the activities of LSIF with HWG; and how such activities may continue through sub-working groups of HWG.
- On 23-24 March 2022, HWG and LSIF reconvened a joint meeting to discuss the finalization of incorporating LSIF workstreams and activities into HWG. The HWG and LSIF members reached the following conclusions:
- to incorporate mental health and vaccine taskforce workstream into HWG’s existing sub-working groups.
- to allow LSIF activities related to Telehealth Solutions, Health Technologies for Cross-Border Travel, and Cervical Cancer and Cancer Control Policy to continue under HWG as projects.
2. HWG Meeting 1/2022
On 16-17 February 2022, the APEC Health Working Group (HWG) convened virtually its first HWG meeting during the First Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1). The meeting was chaired by Dr. Pongsadhorn Pokpermdee (Thailand), HWG Chair. 20 member economies participated in the meeting. Other meeting participants included representatives from LSIF, WHO, World Bank, ASEAN, and ESCAP. Member economies discussed and reflected on the continued impacts of COVID-19 on economies, society es, and health systems. HWG members shared that progress made through activities under APEC has helped to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and created a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices for a better future. These areas included but were not limited to, digital health, cancer prevention, vaccination, mental health, aging, childhood nutrition, regulatory harmonization, and quality measurement in hospitals. The linkages between health and economy, and efficient, equitable, and sustainable health systems as a pre-requisite for economic growth and development were recurring topics in the meeting. HWG members also exchanged views and provided ways forward for incorporating LSIF workstreams and activities into HWG.
3. HWG Meeting 2/2022
On 23-24 August 2022, HWG 2/2022 Meeting was convened in a hybrid format; face-to-face and virtually, chaired by Dr. Pongsadhorn Pokpermdee (Thailand). Participants were from 20 member economies. Other meeting participants included representatives from the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health, the EcoHealth Alliance, the University of Melbourne, and the private sector. Member economies discussed and reflected on the continued impacts of COVID-19 on economies, societies, and health systems. The HWG members shared that progress made through activities under APEC has helped reduce the impact of COVID-19 and created a platform for sharing knowledge and best practices for a better future covering HWH’s theme: “Open to Partnership Connect with the World. Balance Health and the Economy”. The Meeting also provided comments and suggestions for the updated work of three HWG Sub-Working Groups, namely Vaccination, Digital Health, and Mental Wellness.
4. APEC 12th High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy
On 25-26 August 2022, the 12th High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy (HLM12) was convened in a hybrid format; face-to-face and virtually. The Meeting was Chaired by H.E. Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, in Thailand. Participants were from 20 member economies. Other meeting participants included representatives from ASEAN, WHO, World Bank, ESCAP and other international associations. In the panel discussion on 25 August 2022, member economies discussed the interconnection between economic policy and the health challenges in the Asia-Pacific and shared insights, visions, and hands-on experiences in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic in their roles and capacities. At the HLM Roundtable on 26 August 2022, member economies discussed and reflected on their experience, insights, and visions for investment in pandemic preparedness capacities to make the Asia-Pacific region better prepared for future pandemics.
Alignment with APEC Economic And Technical Cooperation (ECOTECH) Priorities
HWG made progress through the implementation of projects in the following areas: Human Capital Development, Technologies and Innovation, Inclusive Growth, Sustainable Growth, and Human Security.
Safe Passage Taskforce projects proposed by HWG align with ECOTECH priorities in Developing Human
Capital (Project entitled “APEC Information Portal for Safe Passage Across the Region”) and Technologies and Innovation being implemented (Project entitled “Interoperability of Vaccination Certificates: Sharing of Technical Specifications).
Policy Dialogues on SMART Families and on Promoting Sustainable Economic Advancement for Women by Addressing Policy Barriers to Prevention, Control, and Elimination of HPV and Cervical Cancer held on 22 August 2022 during SOM3 also aligned with ECOTECH
priorities in Inclusive Growth and Human Security.