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A Healthier Future Demands Collective Action

By César Vásquez Lima, Peru | 27 February 2024


APEC is leveraging collective expertise and shared commitment for a more unified health agenda.

The APEC Health Working Group (HWG) is at a pivotal moment. While we celebrate significant strides in promoting the well-being of our member economies, the future demands continuous collective action to align our efforts with the vision of an "open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community" outlined in the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040.

The past epidemics and the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the inherent connection between epidemic phenomena, public health and the economy on a global scale. In this context, the strengthening of trade ties, emblematic of remarkable cooperation, necessitates a holistic approach aligned with the health policies of our economies to ensure their sustainability.

In this context, Peru takes a prominent position this year with the operationalization of the high-capacity port of Chancay, just north of Lima. Beyond the evident commercial benefits for our Asia-Pacific community, this development will also have a profound impact on our regional health landscape due to shifts in epidemiological dynamics. Moreover, it provides an opportunity to optimize the manufacturing and supply of medical technologies, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

As we cast our gaze towards the future and reflect on the lessons of the past, the recent pandemic serves as a resounding reminder of the paramount importance of preparation, coordination and collaboration in confronting health emergencies. It is imperative that we leverage these lessons to enhance our capacity to prevent, detect and effectively respond to future threats. This requires a meticulous identification and analysis of past actions, coupled with the integration of best practices into our strategic frameworks.

Specifically, guided by the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, the Aotearoa Action Plan, the Bangkok Goals, and the La Serena Roadmap, the HWG will prioritize four key areas:

  • Community Mental Health. We are convinced that expanding access to quality mental health care is essential for a healthy and productive society. We will continue to implement the 2021-2030 Roadmap, promoting the digitalization of health data and specialized community modules.

  • Lifelong Vaccination. Strengthening vaccination schedules remains vital to prevent the resurgence of diseases and safeguard economic stability. We will focus on the APEC Action Plan and enhance supply chains, prioritizing Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for cancer prevention.

  • Climate Change and Health. Mitigating health risks associated with climate change aligns with the Bangkok Goals. We will adopt a One Health approach to address emerging pandemic threats, prioritizing integrated responses to outbreaks such as dengue.

    It is imperative to underscore the global significance of Peru and its Indigenous populations, who serve as custodians of the world's largest water reserve, the Andes, and the Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the planet's lungs. The responsibility of safeguarding the health of these populations extends beyond boundaries; it is a global task that aligns with the overarching objective of preserving the world's most strategic and vital resources.

    As we collectively navigate the challenges posed by climate change, we must recognize the intertwined destinies of economies and ecosystems. By prioritizing the well-being of Peru's Indigenous communities, we are not only ensuring their health but also acknowledging their crucial role in maintaining the equilibrium of our planet's vital resources.

  • Gender in Health. Closing the gap in women's access to healthcare and empowering them economically are key public health objectives. We will uphold the La Serena Roadmap and the Healthy Women, Healthy Economies initiative, promoting gender-sensitive services and recognizing the value of traditional medicine.

Aligned with Peru's 2024 theme of “Empower. Include. Grow,” the HWG will focus its efforts on developing and implementing a comprehensive work plan that would include a high-level meeting on health and the economy, and collaboration with other APEC groups, including the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy, the Emergency Preparedness Working Group, the Chemical Dialogue, and the APEC Business Advisory Council.

As we move forward, we envision tangible results outlining concrete action measures and increased collaboration between forums for a more unified health agenda.

APEC is at the forefront of fostering a healthier and more inclusive Asia-Pacific community. Let us work together, leveraging our collective expertise and shared commitment, to build a future where all individuals thrive and contribute to the region's prosperity.



Dr César Vásquez is the Minister of Health of Peru.

Vice Minister of Health Insurance and Benefits Dr Ciro Mestas delivered a version of this article as opening remarks on Minister Vásquez’s behalf at the APEC Health Working Group meeting in Lima.

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