Parliamentarians: Resilient health systems and preparedness for future emergencies critical to health security in Asia and the Pacific
Members of Parliament from 15 Asian and Pacific nations delivered a clear message: strengthening pandemic preparedness and health system resilience for the future is critical to keeping populations safe and supporting social and economic development in the region.
Hosted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the 6th Asia-Pacific Parliamentarian Forum on Global Health, held from 24 to 25 August in Seoul, brought together parliamentarians to share lessons from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and discuss solutions, actions and collaborations to strengthen health security and build more resilient health systems for the future.
Echoing the Forum’s official communique, Honourable KIM Minseok, President of the Forum, highlighted the urgency of preparing for increasingly frequent and complex public health emergencies:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in every country in our region. Lives have been lost, health workers and health systems have been overstretched, economies have slowed and development in some places has been reversed, making the need for regional cooperation ever more important,” said Hon. KIM. “As we continue to respond to the pandemic, we must use our influence to contribute to regional solidarity and work together to prepare for future health emergencies using what we have learned from COVID-19.”
Caption: Honourable KIM Minseok, President of the Forum, addressing participants on the need to work together to prepare for future emergencies. WHO
Honourable JUNG Chounsook, Chairperson of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Korean National Assembly, who chaired the meeting, added: “We must work to improve health security through not only investing in universal health coverage, but also strengthening pandemic preparedness and resilient health systems. We are proud to host parliamentarians, who are instrumental in advocating for political commitment, strengthening legal and regulatory frameworks, approving budgets, providing oversight, and engaging international partnerships for strengthening health security.”
Caption: Honourable JUNG Chounsook, Chairperson of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Korean National Assembly, who chaired the meeting, addressing parliamentarians on strengthening pandemic preparedness. WHO
Participants discussed harnessing lessons and innovations generated by the COVID-19 pandemic to improve health systems and build resilience for future health emergencies. The Korean Government showcased institutions and innovations supporting the country’s pandemic response. Participants visited the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, Osong Medical Innovation Foundation, SNU Bundang Hospital and the Korea Social Security Information Service and received demonstrations from four digital health start-ups.
Representing WHO, Dr Kidong PARK, Director of the Division of Data, Strategy and Innovation commended Member States for their tireless response to the COVID-19 pandemic and urged countries to build on their achievements as they work to strengthen health security.
“When health is at risk, everything is at risk. Under COVID-19, people have been more aware of the importance of health,” said Dr PARK. “We should grab this opportunity and start taking action to change our health system to become fit for the future that can address other health issues, such as hypertension and diabetes, ageing, climate change and drug resistance.
“The more healthy people, the more sustainable development. Therefore, health is not a cost, but a smart investment that can accelerate social and economic growth for decades to come.”