WHO Identifies Diseases, Warming as Asia-Pacific Health Challenges
September 25, 2008
At meeting of the World Health Organization's Regional Committee in Manila this week, the outgoing regional director of WHO's Western Pacific Office enumerated the health issues facing the Asia-Pacific region.
"We have many challenges in the years to come," said Shigeru Omi. "In addition to the unfinished agenda of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, I think this region has two main challenges: One is health system development, and the other is global health security." Omi cited ongoing efforts against TB, malaria, dengue, and HIV, as well as emerging health security concerns arising from climate change and globalization.
According to WHO, 3.5 million people in the region have TB, which kills more than 350,000 each year. Asia-Pacific is home to an estimated 1.3 million people with HIV. Each year, AIDS-related causes claim some 63,000 lives, and an additional 150,000 people become infected with HIV. Cases of dengue fever in the region climbed from a low of 46,662 seven years ago to 221,860 in 2007, WHO said.
In good news, WHO said polio is nearly eradicated from the region: The last indigenous case occurred in Cambodia in March 1997. From 2000 to 2007, measles cases dropped by 97 percent, and the region is on track to eliminate this disease by 2012. But while malaria infections have declined by 40 percent since 1992, WHO warned that global warming could undo this progress and cause an upsurge in infections.
Omi, a Japanese national, is leaving his post after 10 years. His replacement is Shin Young Soo, a medical professor from South Korea. Shin noted that the next five years will be critically important to health efforts in the region. "The threat of emerging health problems and challenges remains imminent, but challenge is the other side of opportunity," Shin said.
09.25.2008; John Grafilo
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.