Press Release WHO/35
28 April 1998
ADB AND WHO PLEDGE TO REINFORCE THEIR COLLABORATION ON HEALTH ISSUES IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Health Organization (WHO) pledged to reinforce their collaboration in Asia and the Pacific. This is a major outcome of a joint ADB/WHO seminar which took place in Geneva under the title "Health in Developing Asia: Seizing the Opportunities", organized in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (29 April to 1 May 1998). Delegates and guests to the Annual Meeting include finance ministers and central bank governors as well as representatives of international organizations and the private sector.
The purpose of this seminar was to explore the experience of developing Asia, to examine the major challenges facing governments, public institutions and the private sector, to identify opportunities that will allow further improvements in health, and to describe the efforts of the Asian Development Bank and the World Health Organization to promote better health in the region. The seminar was introduced by Mr Eustace A. Nonis, Director, Agriculture and Social Sector Department (Region West) of the Bank, who also acted as moderator.
In his welcoming address to the participants, Dr Fernando Antezana, Assistant Director-General and Deputy Director-General a.i. of WHO, recalled that "ADB and WHO have in recent years intensified their collaboration in specific countries and at regional level", and noted that "the seminar today represents a milestone for our continued joint work to promote and reinforce health development in Asia and the Pacific". Dr Antezana also emphasized that "returns on investment in the social sector are enormous, although not easily quantifiable. They include peace and security, sustainable development, and improved health and quality of life for all, which in turn will stimulate economic growth."
Keynote addresses were delivered by President Chandrika Kumaratunga of Sri Lanka, on "Improving health at low cost: Lessons and challenges from Sri Lanka", as well as by Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and nominee by the WHO Executive Board to be the next Director-General of WHO, on "The way ahead: critical health goals for developing countries in Asia and how they can be achieved". A presentation was made by Professor Dean Jamison of the University of California at Los Angeles (USA) on "Models for health care financing for developing countries".
In his presentation, Dr Uton Muchtar Rafei, Regional Director of WHO for South-East Asia, stressed the importance of reaching vulnerable groups and of improving the health of the poor, women and indigenous people. He emphasized that "South East Asia alone is home to 35 per cent of the developing world's poor", and that "the experiences of many Asian countries have shown that improved health has contributed to economic growth in several ways". Dr Uton stressed that although WHO has consistently advocated that health is central to development, "the health sector is still not accorded due priority in the overall development agenda", because "it is viewed as a sectoral programme that only 'consumes' resources".
Speaking for the Asian Development Bank, Dr Benjamin Loevinsohn, Senior Health Specialist, made an in-depth presentation of the Bank's approach and policy objectives in the health sector. He described the health situation in the various parts of Asia, emphasizing some of the achievements and challenges in the region. "It is important to acknowledge the successes that have been accomplished over the last 35 years", he said. However, there remain serious challenges to confront. In facing these problems there are also opportunities that are only limited by our commitment and creativity. The Asian Development Bank would like to be an active partner in meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities before us, Dr Loevinsohn concluded.
The discussion which followed the presentations emphasized a number of important issues, including the wide possibilities offered by new developments in technology and by leadership and partnership initiatives.
"This joint WHO/ADB seminar is in line with the resolution on WHO policy on collaboration with partners for health development adopted in 1996 by the World Health Assembly" commented Dr Yuji Kawaguchi, Director of the WHO Division of Interagency Affairs. The resolution requested the Director-General to keep the Health Assembly informed, among other things, about developments in strategic alliances with intergovernmental organizations, including the five regional development banks. "The determination to reinforce collaboration between WHO and ADB is particularly timely, less than two weeks before the opening of the 51st World Health Assembly, here in Geneva", Dr Kawaguchi concluded.
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