From the 28th – 30th August 2017 the Cook Islands will host the Pacific Health Minister’s Biennial Meeting. The Pacific Health Ministers meeting provides an opportunity to develop a consensus view of health in the Pacific and sets future directions for health in the effort to build on this idea of “Healthy Islands”.
Agenda items include:
- Healthy Islands monitoring framework: looking at indicators and measuring the progress towards the Health Islands vision;
- Universal Health Coverage (“UHC”): UHC has classically included three components: the health services covered, the population covered and the extent of financial protection given to the population. Experience from across the Pacific and globally suggests that the best way to work towards the Healthy Islands vision and UHC for most Pacific Island Countries will be a focus on strengthening primary health care;
- Health workforce development in the Pacific: Health workers are “all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health” (World Health Report 2006). Workers in health systems around the world are experiencing increasing stress and insecurity as they react to a complex array of forces. Ageing population, new diseases as well as increasing burden of current diseases, escalating conflicts and violence, are all challenges to which the workforce must be prepared to respond;
The unmistakable imperative is to strengthen the workforce so that health systems can tackle crippling diseases and achieve national and global health goals. A strong human infrastructure is fundamental to closing today’s gap between health promise and health reality, and anticipating the health challenges of the 21st century;
- Health information systems: Strengthening health information systems (HIS), civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) was recognised by Pacific Health Ministers as a priority issue. The importance of reliable and timely health, mortality, and cause of death data as well as monitoring health outcomes can contribute to informed policy decisions;
- Rheumatic Heart Diseases: A rare complication of a streptococcal throat infection, rheumatic heart disease causes heart valve damage and progressive heart failure. The cause and course of this disease can be difficult to explain to policy-makers and to people at risk. The relative burden and complexity of the disease have contributed to its neglect by governments, donors and decision-makers.
Rheumatic heart disease is now unusual in most high-resource settings because of access to health care and availability of antibiotics. However, it remains endemic in socioeconomically vulnerable populations in high-income countries and in low- and middle-income country settings.1 Prevention and control measures for rheumatic heart disease include reduction of household crowding, timely diagnosis and appropriate antibiotics for bacterial pharyngitis and – in people who develop rheumatic fever – antibiotic prophylaxis over several years to prevent disease progression
- Non-communicable diseases including childhood obesity: Pacific Island Countries are struggling to cope with the burden of NCD’s on individuals, families, communities, health systems and Pacific economies and poses a real threat to our achieving the vision of Healthy Islands.
Hence why it is vital that we provide strong and sustained leadership and support for NCD prevention and control. Importantly, we must remember that NCD is not just a health issue. Its causes are diverse and its impact are felt by all of society. Therefore, the solutions and response must be multi-sectoral. NCD is a “development priority” rather than only a health concern.
- Mental Health: In the context of national efforts to develop and implement mental health policy, it is vital to not only protect and promote the mental well-being of its citizens, but also address the needs of persons with defined mental disorders. Cost-effective public health and intersectoral strategies and interventions are needed to promote, protect and restore mental health. Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.
- Emerging diseases and disasters preparedness and response/ Climate Change and Health: The region faces Emerging diseases and challenges around disaster preparedness and response in relation to the adverse effects of climate change. The Pacific region is at the forefront of the effects of climate change and will have to be prepared going into the future.
Information on previous meetings can be found on WHO website http://www.wpro.who.int/southpacific/pic_meeting/en/. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing more information on this very important meeting in our region.