APEC Deepens Cross-Border Health Cooperation and Integration
Putrajaya, Malaysia, 22 September 2020
Health officials from APEC member economies are stepping up cooperation to strengthen health capacity and address the impacts of the public health response to the looming health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
Officials met virtually on Monday in preparation for the 10th APEC High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy, which will be held this Wednesday.
According to the WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard, there are approximately 31 million cases of COVID-19 infection globally, and almost one million deaths worldwide. The APEC region accounts for over 34 percent of the global COVID-19 infection and over 36 percent of total deaths. In addition, most APEC economies are currently facing second or third waves of the pandemic.
“Our goal is to help facilitate coordinated actions and manage health challenges including sharing best practices and discussing openly about what works and what does not work so that we can all learn as we go,” said Michael Pearson, Branch Head, Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio, Canada, and Co-Chair of the APEC Health Working Group.
Pearson highlighted the importance for members to continuously strengthen cooperation and actions in ensuring health systems integration in the region against cross-border health threats such as COVID-19.
Officials also discussed a multi-year strategic course of action to ensure a resilient health system in the region. Given the dramatic impact caused by the pandemic, members conceptualized vaccination approaches and support, reiterated the importance of keeping supply chains flowing smoothly and called for collaboration to deal with the secondary impact of the pandemic, such as mental health.
“The foundation of a strong economy lies in the productivity of its workforce which in turn depends on the health and fitness of its people,” said Dato’ Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min, Secretary General of Malaysia’s Ministry of Health in his opening remarks at the Second APEC Health Working Group virtual meeting. “A good health policy is a good economic policy.”
Health Ministers and senior private sector representatives will convene virtually under the theme “Building a Resilient Asia-Pacific in a COVID-19 World” this Wednesday to explore steps forward for member economies in boosting their investments in health to drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the region.
According to a recent report by APEC Policy Support Unit, about 20 percent of people in the APEC region are at risk of falling into extreme poverty as their healthcare burdens increase. The report highlights the necessity to increase funds for public health spending so that governments can expand access to healthcare and social protection.
“The upcoming meeting will also highlight mechanisms for strengthening both supply chains and health systems and ways to harness the digital economy to fight the pandemic and foster innovation in health,” explained group’s Co-Chair, Dato’ Dr. Chong Chee Kheong, Deputy Director General of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia.
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