Sixty-sixth session of the WHO Regional Committee celebrates progress on ageing and health, NCD prevention and control, and regulatory systems strengthening

News release

WHO/J. Zak

The WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific—the Organization's governing body in the Region—noted significant progress on ageing and health, noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention and control, and regulatory systems strengthening at its sixty-sixth annual meeting Thursday on Guam.

Ageing and health

Following endorsement by the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in 2013 of the Regional Framework for Action on Ageing and Health in the Western Pacific (2014–2019), Member States have shown increased commitment to address ageing and health.

WHO has responded by supporting activities that raise awareness and support, strengthen evidence and evidence-informed policy-making, and build national capacity on ageing and health.

WHO support focuses on reorienting health systems to meet the needs of older people.

WHO also supports Member States in developing policies and actions on ageing and health.

At the regional level, analyses of the health systems implications of population ageing were undertaken as a basis for advocacy and dialogue, and implementation in countries. This included regional reviews highlighting integrated service delivery, essential medicines and health technology, human resources for health and long-term care.

Country-specific analysis to meet the health needs of older people focused on Cambodia, China and Viet Nam. Regional experiences and learning contributed input into the development of the World Report on Ageing, launched this month.

"We have to include older people's health needs as one of the important elements of universal health coverage," said Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Director of Programme Management. "WHO will continue to collaborate with Member States, forge partnerships needed to ensure the health of older people, and advocate accelerated action on ageing and health."

Noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention and control

While remarkable progress has been made since the Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs (2014–2020) was endorsed two years ago, challenges continue to persist. To strengthen national capability, leadership and multisectoral action and raise the priority of NCD prevention and control, WHO supported six Member States in developing national NCD multisectoral action plans or strategies.

To reduce the modifiable risk factors for NCDs, nine countries implemented tobacco tax increases, three countries introduced graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging, and seven countries expanded smoke-free zones. In April 2015, Pacific health ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Healthy Islands vision and goal of a Tobacco Free Pacific by 2025.

WHO continues to support Member States in implementing the Package of Essential NCD Interventions for Primary Health Care in Low-Resource Settings or PEN. Moreover, all Member States have adopted the nine voluntary global NCD targets, with some developing National NCD targets that are aligned with the global targets. Surveillance systems to monitor NCD risk factors and disease strengths were strengthened.

"As four time-bound commitments for 2016 that came out of the United Nations NCD high-level meeting, WHO has identified 10 indicators to monitor progress," said Dr Kasai. These include: setting national targets; generating mortality data; conducting surveillance; operationalizing a multisectoral action plan; implementing measures to reduce tobacco use; the harmful use of alcohol; unhealthy diets; physical inactivity; developing NCD management guidelines; and providing drug therapy and counselling for high risk people.

"With 10 indicators that WHO has identified to monitor progress, WHO considers implementation of cost-effective measures for prevention as the key," said Dr Kasai.

Regulatory systems strengthening

WHO conducted an assessment of the national medicines regulatory system in the Philippines that resulted in important regulatory reforms. Systems for medicines registration, inspections and pharmacovigilance were strengthened in Cambodia, China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. Support entailed improvements to databases used for registration as well as updated inspection protocol for drug manufacturing facilities, and good manufacturing practice inspections for plasma fractionation in Malaysia.

The regulatory framework, registration and quality assurance for traditional medicine products were strengthened in Cambodia, Fiji, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam.

Initiatives such as the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework and the Access to Quality Medicines and other Technologies Taskforce of the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance increased intercountry collaboration to strengthen national regulatory systems. WHO also worked with countries to identify substandard and falsified medicines and to strengthen regulatory actions to curb the sale of these products.

China Food and Drug Administration met WHO criteria for a functional vaccine regulatory system in 2011 and 2014. In line with this, locally-produced Japanese encephalitis and seasonal influenza vaccines from China were WHO-prequalified in 2013 and 2015. The Drug Administration of Viet Nam achieved the same certification in 2015. The achievements of national regulatory authorities of China and Viet Nam will contribute to improving the global supply of affordable, quality-assured vaccines.

Under the guidance of the Regional Alliance, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific has provided technical support, including self-assessments of regulatory capacity gaps and in-country and intercountry trainings for low- and lower-middle income countries, including Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Philippines and Viet Nam. WHO has also supported Member States in developing and implementing institutional development plans to strengthen vaccine regulatory capacity.

"WHO will continue to work with Member States in strengthening regulatory systems, with an emphasis on improving national policies and regulatory processes by adopting globally recognized standards and approaches across different medical product streams," 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