Preparing APEC Member Economies to overcome future international disease outbreaks is to be a key priority for the new APEC Health Task Force.
At its inaugural meeting in Taipei, the task force has outlined priorities to address cross border diseases such as SARS and Avian Influenza through a programme of collaborative activities.
Chair of the APEC Health Task Force, Dr Melinda Moore of the US Department of Health and Human Services, said the damage posed by pandemic disease outbreaks continues to present a threat to regional economic stability.
"APEC is in a unique position to contribute to international efforts to combat infectious diseases because APEC is active in so many sectors that work across borders" Dr Moore said.
"Efforts to control cross-border diseases go beyond health issues to include sectors such as transport and tourism and many opportunities exist for collaborative action to be further strengthened through the use of sophisticated communications infrastructure."
"Major disease outbreaks can have considerable impact not only on the health of the populations of member economies but also on the region's overall economic health and trading activity.
"There is an urgent need for APEC economies to work together not only on prevention and control of diseases but also on addressing the broader economic impact of disease epidemics."
The Task Force will implement APEC's health-related activities as directed by Leaders, Ministers and Senior Officials. These will include activities outlined in the Health Security Initiative announced by APEC Leaders last October.
Terms of Reference for the APEC Health Task Force were approved by APEC Senior Officials at their first meeting of 2004 in Santiago, Chile, in March.
The first meeting of the APEC Health Task Force took place in Taipei on April 26-27 and was attended by government and non-government representatives from APEC's 21 Member Economies.