WHO South-East Asia Region commits to inclusive, equitable and resilient health systems

During the 75th session of the Regional Committee for WHO South-East Asia held in Paro Bhutan, the member countries committed to resilient health systems, accelerating multisectoral actions to address priority health issues and re-energizing comprehensive primary health services to build societies that are more inclusive, equitable and resilient against present and future emergencies.

The WHO South-East Asia Press Release stated that building on the lessons learnt from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, countries are committed to strengthening emergency preparedness and building health systems that are also resilient to the environment and climate change.

The annual governing body meeting of WHO in the Region, which met in person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic after a gap of three years, adopted the Paro Declaration to address mental health through primary care and community engagement.

The Regional Committee adopted resolutions to accelerate progress against non-communicable diseases, including oral health and integrated eye care and to promote social participation to strengthen primary health care in support of universal health coverage.

Recognizing that climate action is health action, the Regional Committee decided to extend the Regional Framework for Action in Building Health Systems Resilient to Climate Change (2017 – 2022) till 2027.

Member countries committed to accelerate efforts to eliminate cervical cancer and achieve end-TB targets.

The session endorsed Implementation Roadmap for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in South-East Asia 2022–2030, and two action plans for oral health in South-East Asia 2022–2030 and for integrated people-centered eye care in South-East Asia 2022–2030 were also endorsed.

The Regional Committee emphasized the need to revitalize regional knowledge and experience-sharing mechanisms to respond to public health priorities, such as mental health, noncommunicable diseases, emergencies and pandemics, including COVID-19 and, more recently, monkeypox.

Member countries endorsed the Regional Strategy Roadmap on Health Security and Health System Resilience for Emergencies 2023-2027 to boost emergency preparedness, readiness, and response through capacity building and enhanced governance. The WHO South-East Asia Regional Roadmap for Diagnostic Preparedness, Integrated Laboratory Networking and Genomic Surveillance 2023-2027 was adopted to strengthen national laboratories for improved surveillance and generation of quality data on emerging and re-emerging public health threats.

Member countries sought support in building strong health information systems for evidence and good quality data to guide preparedness and response.

The Regional Committee reviewed progress reports on its previous resolutions and decisions on the regional action plan on health, environment and climate change; the Male Declaration for building health system resilience to climate change; strategic action plan to reduce the double burden of malnutrition; expanding the scope of the regional health emergency fund – SEARHEF – to fund preparedness; and strengthen emergency medical teams in the Region.

Progress against efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality in the Region in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and global strategy on women’s children’s and adolescent health; challenges in polio eradication; and elimination of measles and rubella by 2023, was also reviewed by the Regional Committee.

Meanwhile, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia said “Our focus must be on vulnerable populations; we must identify them and see how best we can address their needs. We cannot leave anyone behind as we seek to drive rapid and sustained progress towards universal health coverage, health security and health for all.”

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