Opening of the 144th Executive Board Meeting of WHO: Intervention by Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Hon Minister of Health, Sri Lanka
- Madam Chair
- Director General of the WHO
- Honorable members of the Executive Board
- Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the SEA region I wish to thank Dr Tedros for presenting an excellent report which I find very relevant to the ongoing developments in the global health scenario.
It is a fact that globally we have a achieved a lot in health care delivery over the last few decades - many countries have, and many more are, in the process of eliminating wide ranging communicable diseases. However, we are yet to mitigate the growing challenge posed by much talked about non- communicable diseases – a major challenge for the whole world, with no country being spared. It is a huge challenge for the SEA region as well. We have resorted to Implementing specific field tested strategies including the PEN package (package of essential non-communicable disease interventions) to mitigate the situation, and have shown some degree of success. But we have to admit a lot more have to be done and our region is proceeding in adopting essential services packages which are also fully aligned with Universal Health Coverage.
Chair, I strongly believe, and I hope most of us here would agree, that the present primary care structures in most of our countries are not well tuned or geared to arrest the rapid growth of NCDs. I strongly believe that there is a need to go for very focused health care reforms as well as to reexamine and introduce new cadres at grass root level to work closely with affected target populations. The cadre pyramid in our health sectors should be less top heavy and more decentralized and field oriented, with more emphasis on and incentives for creating awareness.
It is interesting to note that in many countries in SEA region there is an ongoing process of introducing new reforms which include empaneling population to primary care level. For example in Sri Lanka, eventually we hope to ensure that every citizen has a family doctor to look after his or her health. Our free health care delivery package is increasingly geared towards minimizing out of pocket expenditure to the patients. Towards this end we are in the process of promoting private-public partnerships, presently in pharma production, soon to be extended to health care service delivery as well. I strongly believe that the immense capacity SEA region hold in such processes should be harnessed in a sustainable manner towards the betterment of the health of our masses, each country developing indigenous mechanism to do so. I believe SEA region has immense capacity to play a global role in this regard.
Chair, I am happy that we are increasingly focusing on the critical, dire need to address mental health issues of our populations. No doubt that we have a fairly well thought out global action plan in this regard but the snag is that we do not have much needed expertise to successfully handle regional/ national programs/ plans in a sustainable fashion. Here again I believe it is important to develop our oriental capacities at grass root level, so that our people will have not only a healthy body, but a ‘healthy mind in a healthy body’!
These are some of my thoughts. We will be hearing more specifics of our health needs and interventions from across the region and our strategies in addressing them, in the days to come. In conclusion, let me also take this opportunity to thank the Director General of the WHO and the Regional Director-SEAR for their outstanding leadership and vision, through which, I believe, WHO could further consolidate its impact on the health of our people.
Let me also take this opportunity to wish the sessions all the success.