Building healthy communities and populations
The Division of Building Healthy Communities and Populations covers broad public health areas and provides leadership and action for the promotion of health and the prevention of premature death and disability by addressing key health-related social, environmental, and behavioural risk factors and determinants.
Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) continue to be a top priority in the Western Pacific Region, with WHO providing support for implementation of the Western Pacific Regional Action Plan for Noncommunicable Diseases . WHO also is supporting the establishment of policies and integrated national programmes, capacity-building at the national level and enhanced multisectoral interventions for noncommunicable diseases, including a new initiative on salt reduction. The Division has advocated for greater political commitment from governments and the international community to combat noncommunicable diseases and has urged greater action at the country level.
Health promotion has been emphasized as a key component in improving overall population health and as an element of other public health programmes. WHO efforts have continued to focus on strengthening health promoting schools, health promotion foundations and overall national capacity for health promotion.
Mental disorders affect an increasing number of people in the Region, and WHO has responded by providing support for the development of national policies and legislation and for the strengthening of community-based mental health services. Two keys initiatives for collaboration with Member States focus on suicide prevention and the harmful use of alcohol. The WHO Pacific Island Mental Health Network is helping build capacity and improve mental health services in the Pacific, which faces several challenges in that area.
Injuries and violence are among the leading causes of death in the Region. WHO work has focused on road traffic injuries and childhood injuries, especially drowning. The Organization is working with Member States to improve capacity through intersectoral cooperation, the strengthening of legislation and enforcement, and the scaling up of evidence-based interventions.
Implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control remains a priority for WHO and Member States. The Sixtieth Regional Committee for the Western Pacific endorsed the Regional Action Plan for the Tobacco Free Initiative in the Western Pacific Region (2010–2014) . For the first time, Member States have agreed to set clear targets for tobacco control programmes, including a 10% reduction in tobacco use prevalence over five years. Efforts continue to be directed at raising tobacco taxes and prices; expanding bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; strengthening warnings on tobacco packages; advocating for 100% smoke-free indoor settings; and strengthening tobacco surveillance systems. WHO also has provided support for comprehensive tobacco control legislation and the enforcement of existing policies at the national level, with strong support from the Bloomberg Initiative and in partnership with regional nongovernmental organizations, such as the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
Achieving Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which address child and maternal mortality, has been a continuing challenge for WHO, Member States and our partners. While significant progress has been made in achieving a reduction in child mortality, maternal mortality remains high in many Member States, particularly Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Papua New Guinea. WHO is advocating for new strategic approaches to strengthen national policy and planning processes, with a focus on MDGs 4 and 5. These include the strengthening of health systems and the development of enhanced policies, strategies and action plans in maternal and child health and nutrition. A WHO regional action plan on child and maternal health and nutrition is being developed, but country action plans must be further developed and supported.
Ensuring food security and maintaining good nutritional status require coordinated action among the health and agriculture sectors, the food industry, consumers and professional societies. The Pacific Food Summit proved to be a valuable initiative to advocate for high-level commitment by governments and partners to ensure safe and healthy food for their people, an important step in preventing noncommunicable diseases. WHO also has provided consistent support for the development and implementation of national nutrition policies and plans, addressing infant and young child feeding, the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies, and the management of child nutrition.
Efforts to promote safer and healthier physical environments have been strengthened through multisectoral and intercountry activities, such as national environmental health planning and regional collaboration on priority environmental health issues, including sanitation and drinking water safety. Climate change is having a significant impact on human health, and WHO has intensified support in implementing the Regional Framework of Action to Protect Human Health from the Effects of Climate Change in the Asia Pacific Region, notably in assessing vulnerability to climate change and developing health-sector response plans.
WHO is scaling up cross-cutting initiatives, including the expansion of Healthy Cities and the revitalization of Healthy Islands. The initiatives will further strengthen the development of health systems capacity, expand partnership and networking, and intensify multisectoral and community action for health promotion and development. In China, a network of over 300 cities has been developed, with a focus on environmental health and healthy living. WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health and the National Patriotic Health Campaign Committee in China to develop a workplan for expanding the network, establishing national standards and recognizing mechanisms, developing city health profiles, and launching a national Healthy City resource centre.