The challenge to protect the health of 1.6 billion people
27 May 2011 - The large population in the Western Pacific Region – 37 countries home to 1.6 billion people – is culturally, economically, geographically and climatically diverse, and faces a disproportionate number of natural disasters and health risks. The need for coordinated response is an essential element in dealing with the health response to future tragedies. At the latest WHO Kobe Centre public health seminar, experts from the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO), Manila discussed health risk management and emergency disaster medicine at the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine on 25 May.
Dr Art Pesigan, WHO Technical Officer, highlighted one lesson from his long experience in the field of emergency humanitarian aid: the difficulty of coordination between multiple partners, particularly concerning the timely dispatch of sufficiently senior and qualified staff at the initial stage and the varying conditions at disaster sites including capacity issues, funding, and contextual understanding.
At the seminar, the challenge of managing infectious diseases was also discussed, particularly in light of the fact that the Western Pacific Region has more than 200 disease outbreaks with the potential to threaten the whole world every year. Over the past decade the region has been the site of a number of emerging infectious diseases, such as SARS and A/H5N1, or “bird flu”. The damage wrought by such outbreaks on human health and economies can be immense. Dr Tamano Matsui gave an overview of WHO’s action on infectious disease including information gathering, response, and training to boost the capacity of countries to address disasters and health risks.
The WHO Kobe Centre will host the first First Regional Health Cluster Forum on Health Emergencies in August 2011.