1. We, the ASEAN Health Ministers, convened our 7th meeting on 22 April 2004 in Penang, Malaysia, under the theme, “Health Without Frontiers.” Immediately following the 7th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM), we met with our counterparts from the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea on 23 April 2004. We had a very productive exchange of views on future avenues for ASEAN+3 collaboration on health. This was our first ever ASEAN+3 Health Ministers Meeting, following the decision of the 6th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting in March 2002 that “ASEAN health cooperation would benefit from stronger cooperation with China, Japan and the ROK.”
2. Our gathering here in Penang could not be more timely, as we are convening our Meetings at a time when ASEAN itself is in the process of assessing the impact of closer regional economic integration on health care services. Health cooperation in the region is now poised at the brink of change and expansion, in an increasingly seamless ASEAN region, following the recommendations made by the 9th ASEAN Summit in October 2003 in Bali, which included the call to accelerate the priority sectors such as health care services, as well as a commitment to “further intensify cooperation in the area of public health, including in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, SARS and avian flu, and support joint regional actions to increase access to affordable medicines.”
ASEAN+3 Collaboration in Responding to Diseases
6. We note with satisfaction the progress made in establishing collaborative partnerships in the ASEAN+3 countries to effectively respond to emerging infectious diseases. ASEAN+3 collaboration in responding to diseases has steadily gained momentum since the first time ASEAN+3 countries came together to address the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in April 2003, and more recently the avian flu.
7. We welcome the preparation of a Phase I Work Plan for the Framework ASEAN+3 Action Plan on Prevention and Control of SARS and Other Infectious Diseases adopted by the Special ASEAN+3 Health Ministers Meeting on SARS in June 2003, which is now known the ASEAN+3 Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme. The implementation of the Phase I Workplan will contribute to increasing the effectiveness of regional surveillance, early warning and response to emerging infectious diseases. The programme will provide ASEAN+3 collaboration on health with greater opportunities to share and exchange information, experience and expertise, so that national and regional capabilities can be enhanced in combating threats to our peoples’ health and security. We will also prepare against future threats of diseases including bio-terrorism in the ASEAN+3 EID Programme with the participation of animal health experts, and also facilitate partnerships among networks in the region on public and animal health.
8. We, the ASEAN Health Ministers, thank the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Programme (AADCP) for supporting our efforts to develop and implement the Programme. We also look forward to working closely with WHO.
9. We also commend the work of the ASEAN Task Force on AIDS in following up on the implementation of the 7th ASEAN Summit Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the ASEAN Work Programme on HIV/AIDS Phase II (2002-2005) (AWPII). We note that the work of the Task Force in the past two years has succeeded in mobilising resources for the high priority regional activities to increase access to affordable medicines, reduce the HIV vulnerability of migrant workers, anticipating the impact of HIV/AIDS on development, reduce stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV/AIDS, including support for programmes on national prevention, surveillance and treatment, care and support. We express our gratitude to UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, the Government of Japan, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the United States for their support in helping ASEAN implement the priority activities and invite other partners to collaborate with us in further implementing the ASEAN Work Programme on HIV/AIDS II. We also appreciate the contributions of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) for the support provided to Member Countries in fighting communicable diseases.
Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine
10. We also noted with interest the deliberations of the Ad Hoc ASEAN Working Group on Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TM/CAM), where technical resource persons from China, Japan and the ROK also participated actively. We are aware that existing approaches and practices that advocate the safe, effective and rational use of traditional medicine (TM)/complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in national healthcare systems merit further exploring of opportunities for cooperation and sharing of information among ASEAN+3 countries in this area, particularly to implement strategies that would facilitate research and development to support evidence-based practices of TM/CAM; registration of qualified TM/CAM practitioners and quality products; training and accreditation of practitioners; regulation and legislation; and protection of intellectual property rights.
11. We welcome and endorse the ASEAN+3 Framework of Cooperation on Integration of Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine into National Healthcare Systems, which will serve as a guide for ASEAN+3 countries to put into place appropriate policies and programmes for TM/CAM, and also assist in establishing strategic partnerships among the ASEAN+3 countries, and with other international agencies, particularly WHO. We are confident that ASEAN+3 cooperation in various activities related to TM/CAM will foster environments conducive to the rational use of TM/CAM, thus enabling and encouraging individuals, families, and communities to make appropriate choices in comprehensive treatment plans throughout their lifespan.
12. We will direct our Senior Officials to work towards operationalising the Framework so that TM/CAM practices in our countries will be continuously evaluated and integrated into healthcare policies with appropriate regulations suited to each national health system.
Deepening East Asia Cooperation on Health
13. With our first ASEAN+3 Health Ministers Meeting, we have taken a concrete step in consolidating our cooperation and partnership with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea in the area of health. We agree that the ASEAN+3 countries have much to share with, and learn from, each other in pursuing our priorities for shared benefits of health among our peoples.
14. We have agreed to give priority to urgent concerns for emerging infectious diseases, for ASEAN+3 cooperation. We have also identified initial areas of focus to develop future joint activities, in areas such as health promotion; primary health care concerns (including technical cooperation and technology transfer, provision of life saving drugs, advocacy, and special care programmes for vulnerable groups); capacity building for health professionals; health care financing and health care systems development; traditional medicine/complementary and alternative medicine; and food safety.
15. We will also continue with ongoing and planned efforts to address shared concerns for health under ASEAN’s individual dialogue partnerships with China, Japan and the ROK. The ASEAN side welcomes China’s interest to develop proposals for activities on communicable diseases (HIV/AIDS, disease surveillance), TM/CAM and capacity-building. Similarly, ASEAN welcomes and affirms participation in the series of ASEAN-Japan High Level Officials Meetings, which aim to build capacity to address emerging concerns for health and social welfare. ASEAN is also committed to furthering the aim of the Regional Programme on Community-Based Care for the Elderly, and looks forward to continued collaboration with the ROK on the project “Home Care for Older People” where the ROK’s home care model will be shared with ASEAN countries.