Health Ministers from South-East Asia highlight challenges to health

PR 1506

Bangkok, 7 September 2010: Health Ministers from WHO’s South-East Asia Region met today at the 28th Meeting of Ministers of Health in Bangkok to review health development in the Region, identify challenges and provide policy direction for future action on health issues.

Health is at the nexus of interrelated trends such as rapid and often unplanned urbanization, climate change, and a huge burden of injuries from road accidents and other causes. The ministers underscored the need for urgent action to improve urban health; they also adopted the Bangkok Declaration on “Urbanization and health”.

His Excellency, Mr Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister of Thailand, spoke at the joint inaugural of the 28th Meeting of Ministers of Health and the Sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia. “Health is the basic right of every citizen. It is the moral obligation and the responsibility of governments to ensure that all citizens have equitable access to quality healthcare, so that they can contribute fully to the economic and social advancement of the nation” he observed.

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said,” Urban poverty and squalor are strongly linked to social unrest, mental disorders, crime, violence, and outbreaks of disease associated with crowding and filth.” Describing health inequalities as an excellent social accountant, she added, ”Poor health, including mental health, is one of the most visible and measurable expressions of urban harm”.

Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, highlighted that “Thailand has made remarkable progress in her national development. Among others, the country has already achieved various targets set forth in the UN MDGs. Thailand is among the global pioneers in implementing Primary Health Care approach, which is the key to health for all people; the country has developed a tool guide for furthering the work on community empowerment, which is the essence of Primary Health Care development. This guide is being shared with other Member States, both within and outside the South-East Asia Region. “

The Bangkok Declaration on “Urbanization and Health” was adopted by the health ministers in recognition that unplanned urbanization has major impacts on public health. The ministers committed to:

 Advocate for a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to health by all government sectors, industry and the community
 Promote investment in pro-poor policies to reduce the equity gap among urban dwellers;
 Ensure coverage of health services to all urban populations;
 Promote improved, greener technologies to safeguard health, and increase capacity in systems and service delivery to reduce the risk of further damage to health.

From 8 to 10 September, delegations from the eleven SEAR Member States will be meeting for the Sixty-third session of the WHO Regional Committee, which is WHO’s governing body at the regional level. Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan and Regional Director, Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, will be present at both the meetings.

The WHO Regional Committee will discuss several important health issues including injury prevention and safety promotion; prevention and control of acute diarrhoea and respiratory infections; prevention and containment of antimicrobial resistance; healthy ageing; addressing inequity in maternal and neonatal health; universal health coverage; and capacity building of Member states for global health.

 28th Meeting of Ministers of Health
 63rd Session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia
When: 7-10 September 2010
Where: Royal Orchid Sheraton, Bangkok, Thailand

For more information contact:

Ms Vismita Gupta-Smith
Public Information and Advocacy Officer
WHO South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO)
New Delhi
Tel: 91-11-23309401
Mobile: +91 9871329861