|New Delhi, 31 August 2017: Building health systems resilient to climate change, improving access to essential medicines for all and intensifying efforts to end tuberculosis are among key issues that will be discussed next week at a meeting of health ministers of WHO South-East Asia Region, home to nearly a quarter of the global population.
The Seventieth Regional Committee session of WHO South-East Asia Region, the annual governing body meeting of WHO in the Region, is being hosted by Maldives this year from 6 – 10 September. World Health Organization Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom and Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh will address the meeting, which will also be attended by health officials from Member countries and representatives of partner organizations.
WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in South-East Asia Region, Mr Amitabh Bachchan, will join the meeting to advocate for urgent action against viral hepatitis, a preventable disease that kills approximately 410 000 people in the Region every year.
Strengthening primary health care and the health workforce and progress towards universal health coverage are among other priority issues being addressed at the meeting, reflecting the Region’s drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for health.
The focus of the meeting will be on climate change – on how to build health systems’ resilience to climate change. A well prepared and responsive health system is crucial for preventing and minimizing the increasing health risks posed by climate change.
The ministers will also deliberate on accelerating efforts to end tuberculosis as the Region bears a disproportionate 45% of the global TB burden.
As the Region’s health needs evolve, countries are facing increasing challenges in ensuring equitable access to a growing range of quality essential medicines at affordable prices. To overcome these challenges, ministers will discuss ways to strengthen inter-country cooperation in areas such as medicines procurement and pricing, and regulation of medical products, as well as ways to enhance appropriate use of medicines, especially antibiotics.
The meeting will also deliberate on the action needed to cut down road traffic injuries, which cause 316 000 deaths in the Region every year.
Vector control will also figure prominently at the governing body meeting, as countries across the Region bear a high burden of vector-borne diseases such as dengue, malaria and lymphatic filariasis.
The Regional Committee will also review recent progress on priority programmes and discuss next steps to safeguard the health of people throughout WHO South-East Asia Region.