Fifty-eighth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific,
10-14 September 2007, Jeju, Republic of Korea
Jeju, Republic of Korea, 10 September 2007—The Regional Committee for the Western Pacific began its five-day review of the World Health Organization's work in Asia and the Pacific to ensure that WHO's health programmes, in collaboration with Member States, are effective and are on track.
Dr Shigeru Omi today reported to the Regional Committee, WHO's governing body in the Region, on a number of health issues such as the creation of a new initiative to improve the quality of health, the assurance of an action plan should a human pandemic associated with avian influenza were to break out in the Region and progress made in addressing the problems of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Quality of health care
Dr Omi will present this week a draft policy framework, People Health Care Initiative, for the endorsement of the Regional Committee. The framework focuses on developing health care that is more balanced, holistic and people centred. A related advocacy book is also expected to be published in November.
Dr Omi called on Member States to maintain constant vigilance as the avian influenza virus, H5N1, continues to be entrenched in several countries in the Region and in neighbouring regions. "If a human pandemic associated with avian influenza were to break out in our Region, rapid containment would be our highest priority. Building a stockpile of antiviral drugs, personal protection equipment and other supplies is only one part of the equation—deploying those supplies is the other," Dr Omi said.
The Western Pacific Region has become the first and only WHO region to meet the intermediate 2005 targets—detecting 70% of estimated cases, successfully treating 85% of those cases, and ensuring that 100% of the population has access to the WHO recommended directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS). Despite this progress, however, much more needs to be done to address problem areas within countries, such as multidrug- resistant TB.
HIV/AIDS continues to be a challenge in the Western Pacific Region, where an estimated 1.3 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2006. However, progress has been apparent in both the declining prevalence of new cases in countries such as Cambodia, and the increasing number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy such as Papua New Guinea.
Malaria morbidity and mortality has continued to decrease in most endemic countries in the Region, but drug-resistant strains are continuing to hamper control efforts.
Dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever remain major public health problems in many countries of the Western Pacific Region. The WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific has developed a framework to prevent and control dengue in Asia and the Pacific.
There is good news regarding mosquito-borne disease with China having achieved a public milestone with the elimination of lymphatic filariasis, a disease that is debilitating and disfiguring. The Republic of Korea is expected to follow suit as it takes the final process of verifying the interruption of the transmission of filariasis by the end of this year.
WHO continues to work with Member States to increase access to safe and affordable medicines. In addition, the Rapid Alert System for Combating Counterfeit Medicines, a computerized information-sharing network developed in the Western Pacific Region, is now being replicated globally, thus, helping authorities identify fake drugs in the supply chain.
The WHO Western Pacific Region, in collaboration with its Member States, has been a leader in the fight against tobacco. The Region also takes pride in being the first WHO Region to have all Member States ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
"Efforts to combat noncommunicable diseases continue to expand in the Region as we battle the ever-increasing number of cases of diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart disease," Dr Omi said.
Next year's Regional Committee will be Dr Omi's last session as WHO Regional Director. Before he winds down his second term, Dr Omi said he will have more to report on important issues such as health systems development and global warming.