Health :: International Health Security – World Health Day 2007

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said “The theme of this year’s World Health Day, international health security, is apt given the global health landscape today. In a highly interconnected world, diseases spread fast and recognize no boundaries.”

“Cooperation among nations is crucial, for we all have a responsibility to one another. The debate will help build consensus on how we can deal with the challenges together. Singapore is happy to be part of this process as co-host of the World Health Day 2007 event.?

Mr Jonas Gahr St?re , Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, began an initiative last summer to establish an informal group of foreign ministers to explore the linkages between foreign policy and global health. He said: ?Globalization has increased countries? vulnerability and interdependence. Health issues are among the major challenges that call for stronger strategic focus and closer international cooperation.”

Mr Philip Chen, Chief Executive of Cathay Pacific Airways, steered the airline through the 2003 outbreak of SARS , a highly contagious disease that travelled the globe quickly and inflicted severe economic damage. He said: “The SARS outbreak taught us that organizational competence is essential in meeting the challenges of a crisis but – perhaps more importantly – it is also critical to invest in the time needed to build credibility and win the trust of those people you must rely on for support should a crisis ever happen. This is as true for multinational organizations and governments as it is for commercial enterprises such as Cathay Pacific.”

“The transnational nature of impending health threats makes it imperative for all countries to work together to counter them. Our experience in battling SARS has taught us many lessons which we can share with others. As a member of the WHO Executive Board, Singapore will continue to play its part in and contribute to the global health arena,” said Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State of Foreign Affairs of SIngapore. A new sense of urgency following the outbreaks of SARS and avian influenza in the early years of this decade has led the world to adopt an innovative new approach to strengthen global defenses against the spread of disease. The revised International Health Regulations (2005) come into force on 15 June 2007. They represent an unprecedented public health tool which aims to ensure maximum health security and minimum interference with international transport and trade.

The revised Regulations offer new opportunities to strengthen national and international public health capacities and collaboration. They significantly broaden reporting requirements for Member States. The legal framework will require countries to inform WHO of all public health emergencies of international concern. WHO, with its extensive technical and communications capacities, stands ready to work with countries to investigate, verify and respond to threats, and protect people worldwide.

“New outbreaks of avian influenza and the looming danger of an influenza pandemic, together with the severe health impacts of recent flooding in Indonesia and the Horn of Africa, underline the fact that now is the time to focus on international health security. Even with serious challenges in today’s world, however, it is my view that these are optimistic times for health,” said Dr Chan.

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