The 63rd session of World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific wrapped up in Hanoi on September 27, reaching a high consensus on measures to promote health care for around 1.8 billion people in the region.

The meeting adopted 10 resolutions and action plans, focusing on outstanding issues in the region such as HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases, and tobacco control.

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Shin Young-soo spoke highly of Vietnam ’s efforts in implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in reducing mortality rate among newborns, raising vaccination coverage to 98 percent and controlling the number of HIV/AIDS infected people.

According to Shin, more than 90 percent of people living with HIV in the region are from Cambodia, China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. High risk groups, including sex workers, men having sex with men and people who inject drugs, continue to drive the HIV epidemic.

"Political commitments made by countries at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting in 2011 to reach bold HIV targets by 2015 have not yet led to increased resources to help meet those targets," he said.

One of the special concerns of participating countries and territories, especially host Vietnam, was the implementation of universal health insurance. At a special side event organised by the Vietnamese Government, member states, including China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam, shared their experiences in progressing towards universal health coverage.

They held that progressing towards universal health coverage requires high-level government commitment and a multisectoral response. Health ministries alone cannot achieve universal health coverage. Government investment in health is fundamental, especially to ensure that disadvantaged persons gain access to health services.

Shin said that although most countries in the region are experiencing steady economic growth, government spending on health remains low compared to other regions.

"When the poor fall sick, the cost of treatment, if they can afford it at all, often tips them further into hardship," he said. "When that happens, they are even more susceptible to ill-health, resulting in greater poverty."

While health financing is critical, making good-quality services available and accessible is the cornerstone of universal health, he noted.

WHO has also urged its member states in the Western Pacific region to develop strategies to increase and use more efficiently their investments in health as a means to achieve universal health coverage in the region.

The 64 th session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific will be held in the Philippines next year.-VNA