Asian countries to meet over swine flu next month

New Delhi, Aug 31 ( Health ministers from 11 Asian countries, including India, and World Health Organisation (WHO) experts are set to meet in Nepal in September to discuss swine flu preparedness with apprehensions that the influenza A(H1N1) virus may become more virulent during winter.

The officials will participate in two high-level meetings – the annual meeting of the Health Ministers of the Region, and the 62nd session of WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia (Searo) – from Sep 7 to Sep 10 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“Health Ministers from the 11 countries of WHO’s Searo region and WHO experts will meet to discuss key health issues confronting the region. They will discuss pandemic influenza preparedness, in the context of the sharing of influenza viruses for research, access to vaccines and other benefits,” an official statement from the organisation said here Monday.

According to WHO, the meeting of health ministers is a forum to exchange national experiences on the social, political and economic dimensions of health and highlight burning issues.

WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia Samlee Plianbangchang and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan will be present at both the meetings.

“The health ministers will discuss climate change and its impact on human health. Climate change is affecting all countries in the region, whether through rising sea levels, more frequent and violent natural disasters, or melting glacial ice,” the statement said.

This meeting will follow up on the progress on the New Delhi Declaration on the Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health, adopted by the ministers in 2008.

“The Regional Committee will also discuss the engagement of the private sector to meet national health systems goals. The non-state sector plays a dominant role in provision of health services in the region, more so than anywhere else in the world and even in the case of essential care like maternal and child health,” the statement said.

“However, the sector is largely unregulated, with both cost as well as quality consequences for patients. Nonetheless, private contributions that effectively supplement public resources could provide an important opportunity for advancing national health agendas,” it added.