Working Together to Address Complex health Challenges

ASEAN comprises of ten Member States which form a diverse and dynamic region experiencing rapid demographic, epidemiological and socio-economic growth. These developments also pose a lot of threats and challenges to public health that health systems of Member States continuously endeavor to address.

Gaps continue to exist between and within countries in the region. In some of the countries, poverty remains the most important determinant for health status, mainly for marginalized and vulnerable groups, including those living in remote, isolated, mountainous or island communities. Many countries also face the double burden of disease: non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer are more seen in most countries, while malaria, dengue fever, tuberculosis, and vaccine preventable diseases and other communicable diseases remain a burden for some countries.

Globalization, trade liberalization and community integration presented developmental opportunities for the region. These also resulted to rapid urbanization and industrialization, increased migration and travel, mushrooming of mega-cities and overpopulation, pollution and environmental problems to name a few. The region is also prone to natural diseases and is increasingly experiencing the impacts of climate change.

As an ASEAN Community, Member States believe that efforts and resources of each national health system geared towards protecting and improving the health of their peoples will have maximum outcomes when done in a collaborative, complementary and synergistic manner. Since its establishment in 1980, the ASEAN Health Cooperation has gone a long way in protecting the region from high-impact public health emergencies such as SARS, HPAI H5N1, 2009 H1N1 pandemic, MERS-CoV, Ebola virus disease and Zika virus, and in collectively engaging with populations in the prevention and control of specific conditions, such as non-communicable diseases.

The ASEAN Community is comprised of three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). The ASEAN Health cooperation is under the ASCC pillar.

ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda
Guided by the ASEAN Vision 2025, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025 among others, the ASEAN Health Cooperation adopted the ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda (APHDA) which encapsulates the shared goals, strategies, prioirities and programmes of the health sector between 2016-2020. There are 42 health strategic measures in the Blueprint which are related to health and currently being operationalized through the APHDA. To achieve its vision, mission and goals of the ASEAN Health Cooperation, the Agenda will focus attention and resources to 20 Health Priorities overseen by four Health Clusters.

ASEAN Health Cooperation Governance and Implementation
The core governance structure is composed of two main governing bodies of ASEAN health development:

  • ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting (AHMM) which determines the policies of ASEAN Health and endorses decisions and reports of SOMHD. It meets every two years, as well as organises special meetings as necessary to discuss urgent matters.
  • Senior Officials’ Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) which is responsible for strategic management, and provides guidance on the overall implementation of the APHDA ensuring that all goals and targets are achieved. It is convened at least once a year, while special or additional meetings may be called to discuss urgent matters.

To operationalise APHDA, four ASEAN Health Clusters were established. Guided by Work Programmes, each Health Cluster provides strategic leadership in identifying and implementing regional programmes, projects and initiatives in selected health priority issues.

ASEAN Health Cluster Work Programmes

  • ASEAN Health Cluster 1: Promoting Healthy Lifestyle
  • ASEAN Health Cluster 2: Responding to All Hazards and Emerging Threats
  • ASEAN Health Cluster 3: Strengthening Health Systems and Access to Care
  • ASEAN Health Cluster 4: Ensuring Food Safety