Foreword - From the Regional Director

Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to bring you this edition of the ‘Health in South-East Asia’ e-newsletter, which dramatic public health gains of Maldives, the country which hosted the Seventieth Regional Committee session in September this year.

As the stories in this newsletter demonstrate, Maldives’ commitment to public health is driving rapid progress and building on the country’s recent achievements, including being certified malaria-free in 2015 and eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem in 2016. Maldives’ latest path-breaking achievement – verified earlier this year – is the elimination of endemic measles. Recent efforts to roll-back the noncommunicable disease burden, including via increased taxation of unhealthy products, are likewise laudable.

The Seventieth Regional Committee will focus on the health risks posed by climate change and the need for health systems across the Region to be strengthened to anticipate, respond to, cope with, recover from and adapt to climate-related shocks and stress. As my op-ed outlines, this should be done in a way that advances health equity and ensures no one is left behind.

Also included in this issue are stories on Timor-Leste’s intrepid pursuit of universal health coverage; innovative efforts in India to guarantee access to life-saving treatment for hepatitis; Indonesia’s quest to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals with health system planning, including by monitoring health inequality; and Sri Lanka’s efforts to decrease sugar consumption via a ‘traffic light’ labelling system.

I hope you enjoy this edition of the Health in South-East Asia e-newsletter; please do share widely.