Posted by: ihfgeneva | December 10, 2013

IHF Participates in the 64th WHO Regional Committee Meeting for the Western Pacific

Dr Bu Castro at 64th WHO regional committee meetingThe International Hospital Federation was represented by Dr. Bu C. Castro, Immediate Past President of the Philippine Hospital Association, at the 64th WHO Regional Committee Meeting for the Western Pacific during 21-25 October in Manila.

Director General of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, addressed the meeting, in a speech that touched on numerous health issues in the Western Pacific Region. In her address, Dr. Chan highlighted the successful containment of the 2011 Poliovirus outbreak in China, the decreased prevalence of malaria and the decrease in maternal and child deaths in the Western Pacific Region (WPR). One of the major achievements in the WPR has been childhood vaccination, which has decreased the number of children with measles by 93% in the past 4 years. Although there have been many successful achievements in the WPR, Dr. Chan reminded member states about high priority issues that must be still addressed. For example, Dr. Chan highlighted the need for member countries to address the increasing milk companies’ violations of the International Code for Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.

The two biggest items on the 64th WHO Regional Committee Meeting Agenda were non-communicable diseases and an aging population. It was reported that 80% of deaths in the WPR are due to NCD’s. In its aim to arrest this silent epidemic, the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific has endorsed the Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases from 2014-2020. Dr. Chan acknowledged the fact that populations on Pacific Island countries have the highest rates of obesity in the world, which she believes, is due to changing lifestyles as a result of more women in the workforce, and increased consumption of junk food, alcohol and tobacco. She highlighted the fact that the tobacco industry must not influence any policy geared toward public health, and that it should be closely and seriously monitored. Dr. Chan also gave her full support for the draft strategy on aging and health in the WPR.

Following Dr. Chan’s address, Dr. Shin Young-Soo was nominated for his second 5- year term as the Regional Director of the Western Pacific Region. Dr. Shin Young-Soo addressed the meeting, articulating his efforts for the future to eliminate measles, address neglected tropical diseases, control non-communicable diseases, improve access to healthcare and prepare for healthcare emergencies.

The issue of Neglected Tropical Diseases was presented and discussed at the meeting, as 28 out of the 37 countries in the WPR are affected by this issue, causing over 100 million people to be put at risk. The WHO also reminded member countries that more effort should be put towards people with disabilities, which is an issue that will continue to increase with an aging population. The WHO also urged member countries to address mental disorders through sound mental health policies, as well as to make more efforts to concentrate on substandard and counterfeit medical products.

Other areas discussed and presented at the meeting included the WHO’s program to work with member countries to increase capacity for emerging infectious diseases and healthcare emergencies, as well as the WHO Action Plan for Healthy Newborn Infants in the Western Pacific Region for 2014-2020. The WHO also reminded member countries to remain polio free, decrease the prevalence of measles and control Hepatitis B. The Western Pacific Region has adapted a goal, with the support of the WHO, to reduce the number of children with Hepatitis B to less than 1% by 2017. The WPR has also acknowledged the issue of blindness and has endorsed a strategy, Towards Universal Eye Health: Regional Action Plan for the Western Pacific Region for 2014-2019 in an effort to make eye health a higher priority in the public health arena.

While the WHO did not focus on secondary or tertiary care through hospitals in the meeting due to the overwhelming need to address primary care in the Western Pacific Region, Dr. Bu C. Castro observed potential opportunities for the IHF to supplement WHO efforts. For example, Dr. Castro recommends that IHF provide educational knowledge and skills for patients in the WPR admitted into hospitals. He also suggests the Masteral Program of Healthcare Administration, formulated and advocated by Dr. Paul Brigino of the Philippines, which immerses specialists that are normally confined to the hospital into poor communities where they are needed most.

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