The APEC Health Task Force (HTF) has held two days of meetings in the lead-up to the Second APEC Health Ministers Meeting on June 7-8.
The HTF considered a number of initiatives to increase cooperation between APEC Member Economies for dealing with health-related threats and their impact on economies, trade and security in the Asia-Pacific Region. The meeting included the review of APEC projects designed to help economies to improve capacity in areas such as the prevention and response to potential avian and influenza pandemics; pandemic risk communications; and multi-sectoral collaboration to ensure functioning economies in times of a pandemic. Member economies also considered the need to make better use of technological advances relevant to the delivery of health care, and the adoption of effective workplace practices for people living with HIV-AIDS.
The Chair of the HTF meeting, Ms. Bersabel Ephrem, said the work of the HTF provides a unique opportunity to deal with some of the major health challenges currently faced by the APEC Region in a world where globalization and economic integration and movement of people and goods delivers both benefits and increased potential for the spread of infectious disease.
"Health issues have major implications for the future prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region," Ms. Ephrem said at the conclusion of the HTF meeting.
"Efforts to deal with the potential of an avian influenza pandemic, the ongoing threat posed by HIV/AIDS and a number of other cross-border health issues must be managed at a regional level to be effective.
"APEC is working to ensure that there is coordination between governments, the private sector and other stakeholders firstly to prepare for crises, then to ensure a rapid economic and social recovery after the crisis has passed."
At the meeting in Sydney, the HTF is also finalizing details for its transition from a Task Force into a formal APEC Working Group as was approved recently by APEC Senior Officials.
"The transition of the HTF into the APEC Health Working Group will provide a permanent forum for APEC to coordinate ongoing efforts to strengthen regional health security," Ms. Ephrem said.
The HTF was created in 2003 in recognition that health is critical to economic and trade development in the Region. The Task Force provides a unique forum to discuss challenges and solutions for mitigating the negative effects of public health emergencies, and addressing emerging public health issues, with a focus on building capacity, and enhancing APEC co-operation for preparing and response.
APEC Health Officials are meeting in the afternoon followed by a welcome reception for APEC Health Ministers before they begin two days of meetings on June 7-8.