Home Public Health Health Ministers of WHO South-East Asia Region to deliberate on priority issues next week

Health Ministers of WHO South-East Asia Region to deliberate on priority issues next week

by Public Health Update

2 September 2022 News release SEARO

Paro, Bhutan | 2 September 2022 

Addressing mental health through primary care and community engagement, strengthening health emergency preparedness and response in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and emerging threats, and achieving universal health coverage and health security through stronger primary health care, are among key issues that ministers of health, senior officials, and health partners will deliberate on during a week-long meeting starting Monday.

The Seventy Fifth Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia, the annual governing body meeting of WHO in the Region, being hosted by Bhutan this year, will be held here from 5 to 9 September.  

The Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, officials from WHO headquarters, senior officials from health ministries of Member countries, representatives of UN Agencies, partners, donors, and civil society, will be participating in the meeting.

Monitoring progress and accelerated plan for noncommunicable diseases, progress towards meeting the End TB goal, accelerating elimination of cervical cancer; and strengthening health workforce education and training are among other key issues to be taken up at the Regional Committee Session, the highest decision making body of WHO in the Region.

The progress made on the resolutions adopted at previous Regional Committee sessions will be reviewed, including regional plan of action for healthy environments for healthier populations; strategic plan to address the double burden of malnutrition; ending preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality; elimination of measles and rubella by 2023; and strengthening emergency medical teams.

Home to one-fourth of the global population, the Region has been focusing efforts around eight regional flagship priorities since 2014 – to eliminate measles and rubella by 2023; address noncommunicable diseases through multisectoral policies and plans; accelerate reduction of maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality; advance universal health coverage; reverse antimicrobial resistance; scale-up emergency risk management capacities; eliminate neglected tropical diseases; and End TB. The Regional priorities are in sync with Sustainable Development Goals for Health.

Over the years, Member countries have been driving substantive gains in health and wellbeing in line with the flagships. The Region eradicated polio in 2014 and eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2016. Maldives and Sri Lanka have eliminated both measles and rubella, while Bhutan, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste have achieved measles elimination. Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand have eliminated lymphatic filariasis. Nepal and Myanmar have eliminated trachoma. India is yaws-free. Sri Lanka and Maldives have eliminated malaria.  Thailand, Sri Lanka and Maldives have eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand have controlled Hepatitis B.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first time that the Regional Committee session is being held in person. The last two annual meetings – hosted by Nepal in 2021, and Thailand in 2020 – were virtual.

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