Pursue UHC—APEC

Health workers’ welfare, mental illness, health emergency preparedness, drug regulation, support for PWDs also tackled

By DR. REUBEN RICALLO

DESPITE the horrendous traffic and great inconvenience the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit have caused, it might be well worth it if the commitment on joint collaboration in various fields including healthcare delivery that will cover all citizens; innovations in medicine, science and technology, will be implemented and effectively delivered.

Ministers from member-countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) convened on November 16-17, 2015 in Manila chaired by Albert del Rosario, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and Gregory Domingo, Secretary of Trade and Industry.

Concerning its Health agenda, all member economies were enjoined to develop sustainable and high performing health systems and promote health development and well-being through a holistic approach with a view to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC)—locally dubbed as Kalusugang Pangkalahatan — as outlined in the statement from the 5th High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy.

Healthy roadmap

Aside from the aiming for real 10-percent UHC, the joint statement affirmed by all the country ministers encouraged all member-economies to implement the Roadmap for the Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 which identifies five critical success factors in overcoming health challenges: (a) securing a whole-of-gobernment commitment to health; (b) establishing platforms for policy dialogue and stakeholder engagement; (c) promoting prevention, control and awareness in health care; (d) enabling innovation; and (e) enhancing intersectoral and cross-border collaboration.

The joint statement recommended convenin a cross-fora dialogue in 2016 to discuss innovative ways of “ensuring that our workforce remains healhty and competitive.” The APEC also welcomed the launch of the APEC Health Sciences Academy at the Peking University in China.

Also emphasized as priorities in the APEC meeting is improving health emergency preparedness, surveillance, and response and recovery systems for public health events and disasters. Recently, the APEC Working Manual of Health Hotline Responding to Public Health Emergencies, the APEC Healthcare Acquired Infections Policy Guidelines, the APEC Blood Supply Chain 2020 Roadmap, and the establishment of the Blood Supply Chain Partnership Training Network were developed.

Mental illness, an under-recognized but potentially serious problem, was given special mention as a priority health need. The joint statement of the APEC ministers also affirmed support to the WHO Mental Health Action Plan. “We welcome initiatives in APEC to share best practices and promote innovative partnerships to improve access to mental health services such as efforts to establish an interactive digital hub by year’s end to promote mental wellness in the region,” the statement said.

Regulation of healthcare products

Regulation of healthcare products was also tackled, and it was agreed that the member-economies should reduce barriers to trade and investment in the supply chain of various healthcare products. According to the statement, the member-economies “support the establishment of an APEC Regulatory Sciences Center of Excellence (COE) for multi-regional clinical trials to promote global drug development and training on good clinical practices and reach regulatory convergence for medical product approval procedures by 2020.”

In the face of epidemics and pandemics caused by infectious diseases like the SARS and Ebola virus diseases, the ministers unanimously committed to support one another in building the necessary capacity to effectively prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. They also welcomed private sector contributions in some economies to infection prevention and control through initiatives, such as the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), which recommended support packages that will help to accelerate capacity to implement WHO International Health Regulations and programs related to bolstering infection prevention and control, and reducing anti-microbial resistance.

The APEC ministers also committed to assist persons with disabilities (PWDs) not only with regards their health requirements, but also to enhance the economic empowerment of the numerous PWDs in all member-countries. “We encourage officials to take measures to promote the value of persons with disabilities as workers, investors and participants in economic development,” the joint statement said.

Inclusive growth

With the theme “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World,” the APEC’s 26th summit reiterated its common vision for an Asia-Pacific region that embraces an economic growth agenda that benefits everyone and future generations. It also built on the goal the APEC Leaders set twenty years ago in Subic for sustainable growth and equitable development.

This year, four priorities were emphasized: Enhancing the Regional Economic Integration (REI) Agenda; Fostering Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises’ (MSME) Participation in Regional and Global Markets; Investing in Human Capital Development; and Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities.

To advance science and technology, the APEC ministers endorsed the Policy Partnership of Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) Policy Statement on the development of common approaches to STI policies that encourage joint R&D and STI activities, advise APEC policy-making, and support commercialization and popularization of research and market-based innovations through policy translation.

The APEC also afforded some limelight and support to our local scientists and inventors like Filipina engineer Aisa Mijeno, who invented lamps powered by saline solution. She was lauded by no less than United States President Barack Obama, who encouraged the CEOs of top multinational companies present in the CEO Forum he personally chaired, to support social entrepreneurs like Mijeno. With an APEC report

Vital Signs Issue 81 Vol. 4, November 1-30 2015