Official visit of the WHO Regional Director of the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The WHO Regional Director of the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo is on his 7th official visit to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic from 28 April to 3 May 2018. He will be visiting Vientiane Capital and Luang Prabang Province for this trip.

Dr Shin Young-soo met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mr Somdy Douangdy, where he congratulated the Government of Lao PDR for having fulfilled the eligibility criteria to graduate from Least Developed Country status for the first time; passing the thresholds for Gross National Income per capita and the Human Assets Index. WHO as part of the UN family will continue to support the Government of Lao PDR in maintaining this momentum for graduation in the lead up to the next review in 2021.

Capacity building through Field Epidemiology Training and collaboration with the Institute of Research and Education Development

Human Assets Index is a composite index of education and health; it focused on capacity building and in the health sector. Dr Shin Young-soo attended the graduation ceremony for the 9th cohort of Field Epidemiology Training program, which plays an important role in improving disease surveillance and response capacity in the country.

This was followed by a visit to the University of Health Sciences, where Dr Shin Young-soo met with the Rector of University of Health Science, Dr Phouthone Vangkhonevilay and senior faculty members from the university. He then visited the Education Development Centre (EDC) soon to be established as the Institute of Research, Education Development and Library, where the Director Dr Ketsomsouk Bouphavanh provided an update of progresses made by the EDC since its establishment in 2011.

Dr Shin Young-soo expressed his pleasure at the progress of the EDC, an initiative he supported as Regional Director. He also provided some key advice and wise words to the staff of the EDC reminding them that their work must not only be for the purpose of their institution but be undertaken for the good of the whole population of Lao PDR.

From left, Dr Phouthone Vangkhonevilay, Dr Ketsomsouk Bouphavanh, Dr Shin Young-soo and Assoc Prof Dr Bounkong Syhavong, Health Minister

Overview of the Lao Health System Development from 2009 -2017

The Lao Health System Development Interactive seminar was chaired by Dr Shin Young-soo with the Health Minister, Prof Assoc Dr Bounkong Syhavong; which was followed by the signing of the Foreword for the Report on the Overview of the Lao Health System Development from 2009 -2017; and the presentation of the trachoma elimination plaque awarded from WHO Headquarters to the Health Minister.

Dr Shin Young-soo said “We have to address the health inequities within the country especially the urban and rural divide, to narrow these gaps and reach the less privileged. One of the goals of the Universal Health Coverage is to ensure that we leave no one behind.”

This was reiterated by Assoc Prof Dr Bounkong Syhavong, in ensuring equal access to quality health services, especially in rural areas, so that we can continue to reduce the maternal and child mortality, which is part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Minister also emphasised the need to strengthen the monitoring system to capture the relevant information to reach universal health coverage.

The marketplace interactive session with presenters from MOH and WHO

Representatives from departments in MOH and WHO country team provided a brief introduction on the achievements, challenges and way forward in some key areas of the health sector: Human Resource for Health; Health Financing of the Health System; the work on control of infectious diseases with highlight on Malaria elimination efforts; Maternal and Child Health including the Immunization Programme; and on the Environmental Health, especially the latest development in an effort to ban asbestos to be used in Lao PDR.

Signing of the Foreword by the Health Minister and WHO Regional Director

The signing of the Foreword was witnessed by the senior staff of the Ministry of Health, and development partners who attended the event.

Ceremony to mark Trachoma elimination

Lao People’s Democratic Republic has successfully eliminated trachoma as a public health problem. Dr Shin Young-soo said that “This is a wonderful achievement: eliminating disease is not easy, it takes years of persistence and determination. The Government of Lao PDR should be very proud of reaching this milestone: unlike earlier generations, thanks to your efforts, the children of today can grow up without fear of being blinded by this dreadful disease.”

Dr Bounkong Syhavong holding the plaque commemorating the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem

Dr Bounkong Syhavong said that “The country is also making tremendous progress on tackling other Neglected Tropical Diseases, including lymphatic filariasis and Schistosomiasis (SCH) control; and he thanked WHO for the close collaboration and support.”