WHO tackles violence, injury prevention; and urban health

News release


The WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific—the Organization's governing body in the Region—today endorsed an action plan that will help Member States reduce violence and injuries, and a framework plan that will assist the Region's cities in their efforts to effectively meet the health challenges caused by rapid and unplanned urbanization.

A Region that actively works toward violence and injury prevention

"The United Nations General Assembly and the World Health Assembly recently have stressed the urgent need for action on the prevention of road traffic injuries, child injuries and interpersonal violence," said Dr Susan Mercado, WHO Director of NCD and Health through the Life-Course.

Violence and injuries are the leading cause of death for people aged 5–49 years. They kill more than a million people each year, claiming more lives in the Western Pacific Region than the combined total from diabetes, diarrhoeal diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria, respiratory infections and tuberculosis.

Leading causes include road traffic injuries, falls, drowning and interpersonal violence. Road traffic injuries kill more people aged 15–49 years than any other cause; the highest rates of drowning are reported among children aged 1–4 years; nearly 70% of fatal falls involve people aged 60 years and older; and between 15% and 68% of women in the Region have experienced violence during their lifetime at the hands of an intimate partner.

The Regional Action Plan for Violence and Injury Prevention in the Western Pacific (2016–2020) is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and was developed in close consultation with Member States and international experts. The action plan focuses on supporting the development of coordinated, evidence-based, data-driven policies and actions by a range of sectors, including health, transport, police and education, and increasing national capacity for implementation, with the ultimate goal of reducing death and disability due to violence and injuries.

"Violence and injuries inflict devastating consequences on populations, communities, families and individuals. With the SDGs including violence and injury prevention, we hope that this action plan can be utilized as an effective tool in support of national action," said Dr Mercado.

Advocating healthy and resilient cities in the Western Pacific Region

The Regional Framework for Urban Health in the Western Pacific 2016–2020 approved today articulates three scopes of action—core, expanded and comprehensive—to achieve healthy and resilient cities. The recommended actions aim to build infrastructure and institutional resilience by strengthening governance, coordination, planning, surveillance, capacity and competencies, and urban health systems.

In the Western Pacific Region, more than half of the Region's 1.8 billion people live in cities. The Region is home to nine megacities, each with populations of more than 10 million. Health challenges brought about by rapid and unplanned urbanization impact all Member States.

"The Region has benefited greatly from rapid development and economic growth. But this development has had unintended consequences," said Dr Mercado. "In particular, urban areas in many parts of the Region have grown faster than the capacity to provide infrastructure for safe housing, water and sanitation."

Many urban areas are overwhelmed by the demand for adequate and safe housing, clean water, adequate sanitation, public transport, healthy and nutritious food and protection from natural hazards, among others. Most cities and urban settings are unprepared for changes and pressures from globalization, urbanization, climate change, demographic ageing, migration and other social and environmental issues.

Good urban governance and planning for health are essential to secure the benefits to health of living in urban areas. Political will and strong leadership in health are needed to drive action to protect vulnerable groups, to improve cities and human settlements, and to become resilient. The Sustainable Development Goals may serve as a unifying platform to guide the actions of all sectors towards better health outcomes.

"This new regional framework should serve as reference to address persistent health challenges and prepare for emerging ones," said Dr Mercado.

Progress reports on technical programmes

The Regional Committee also noted progress on several technical programmes and issues.

Food safety: regional strategy beyond 2015

Guided by the Western Pacific Regional Food Safety Strategy 2011–2015, significant progress has been made in strengthening food safety in the Western Pacific Region. Food laws, regulations and policies have been developed and updated and risk-based food inspection and enforcement mechanisms and procedures have been established. In addition, countries' capacity to prevent, detect, report and respond to food safety events has been strengthened, and stronger cross-sectoral collaboration and coordination have been fostered.

"Following a comprehensive review of the implementation of the regional food safety strategy and the priority activities completed over the past year, we again reconfirm the continued relevance of the strategy beyond 2015," said Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Director of Programme Management.

World Health Day 2015 provided an opportunity to highlight the importance of food safety for public health and economic prosperity. In celebration of World Health Day 2015, activities took place throughout the Region, from high-level and intersectoral advocacy activities to community-based events.

Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases (2010) and the International Health Regulations (2005)

The Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases (2010) (APSED) continues to guide Member States in developing core capacities under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR). APSED has helped Member States to strengthen surveillance, conduct field epidemiology training and laboratory diagnosis, strengthen zoonosis coordination mechanism and emergency operations. These have been instrumental in responding to threats posed by human infections of H7N9 and H5N1, dengue and other arbovirus outbreaks and imported cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Malaysia, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea. Eighteen of the Region's 27 International Health Regulations States Parties have met the core capacity requirements of IHR (2005) by the June 2014 deadline, while nine formally requested a final two-year extension to 2016.

The threat of Ebola virus disease has been a top priority in the Western Pacific Region following the outbreak in West Africa that was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in August 2014, in accordance with IHR (2005). The unprecedented Ebola virus disease outbreak and recent outbreak of MERS-CoV in the Region underscore the importance of being prepared. WHO used the APSED approach to support Member States in strengthening national and regional preparedness.

"The relevance and importance of APSED has been reconfirmed in a thorough evaluation conducted in 2015 of the strategy's implementation over the previous nine years," said Dr Kasai. "APSED has also been tested in real-world public health events, including the recent Ebola and MERS-CoV outbreaks."

Neglected tropical diseases and leprosy

Significant progress has been made towards elimination of priority neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Three lymphatic filariasis-endemic countries (Niue, Palau and Vanuatu) reached elimination of the disease as a public health problem and submitted reports to WHO. Four other countries (Cambodia, Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and Viet Nam) are finalizing reports. The Western Pacific Regional Programme Review Group on NTDs continued to support the Region, working with WHO to monitor progress, approve requests for drug donations, advise on technical issues and engage in advocacy.

Effective NTD interventions include preventive chemotherapy (PC), defined as large-scale delivery of medicines as a public health tool to treat selected NTDs. In 2013, 28 million people in 11 countries received PC for at least one disease. Solomon Islands started mass drug administration (MDA) against blinding trachoma and yaws. Vanuatu also started MDA against yaws. Cambodia, Kiribati, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Tuvalu achieved the deworming coverage target among children. The Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands newly started deworming, and the Philippines shifted to a nationwide deworming campaign to improve treatment coverage. WHO also supported training on prevention of disability from leprosy. The training engaged health workers responsible for diabetes care and general rehabilitation.

"Many challenges remain. Continuing multisectoral efforts are needed to expand and sustain access to interventions in order to achieve regional success in controlling and eliminating NTDs, particularly for women, children and those with diseases or disabilities," said Dr Kasai.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
Public Information Office
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
United Nations Avenue corner Taft Avenue, Manila, Philippines
Telephone: +632 528 9993
Email: serranor@wpro.who.int