New Delhi, Sept 8 : External Affairs Minister Dr. Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the 26th meeting of Ministers of Health and the 61st session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia here today.
India is hosting these two important meetings from September 8-11 in which Health Ministers and delegates from eleven South-East Asian countries are taking part.
The Ministers will review health developments in the region, identify challenges and provide policy direction for future action.
Among other health issues, the Ministers will focus on the impact of climate change on human health and revitalizing primary healthcare. Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr. Samlee Plianbangchang and other WHO experts are attending the meetings.
Extending her condolences to the millions of people devastated by recent floods in India and Nepal, Dr. Chan said that Health Ministers in the region are concerned about climate change and rightly so.
"All the experts tell us: robust health systems that reach the poor are the best protection against the health shocks of extreme weather events" she added.
Dr. Plianbangchang also reiterated that climate change now poses a formidable challenge to human health in the region.
Noting that 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care, Dr. Samlee said, "Primary health care is considered to be the principal tool for public health interventions that can contribute effectively to reaching the un-reached; which is a prerequisite of equity and social justice in health."
Dr. Samlee stressed that while primary health care has significantly contributed to health of people around the world, the social goal of 'health for all' was yet to be attained anywhere.
Dr. Ramadoss focused on the increased burden of non-communicable diseases in India, and the need to protect the overall young population from the harmful affects of tobacco and alcohol. He proposed that 2nd October, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, should be observed as "World No Alcohol Day".
"Being the most populous region of the world with the greatest disease burden, we are united in our commitment to sustainable and equitable development to ensure human dignity. Promoting universal access to quality healthcare and affordable medicines is an important goal for our societies" he said.