Speech of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Informal Consultation on the Quality Improvement of Laboratory Services for Viral Hepatitis in the Western Pacific Region
Good morning everyone. I am very pleased be able to welcome colleagues and friends from WHO collaborating centres and partner agencies to our Regional Office for this important consultation.
As you may know, the Western Pacific Region accounts for 40% of the global morbidity burden from viral hepatitis. One out of three people who die from the disease come from our Region.
There are 115 million people living with chronic hepatitis B infection, and 14 million with hepatitis C in the Region. But only about one in seven are aware of their status.
Strengthening laboratory services is critical to the success of our efforts to fight hepatitis – which is why this meeting is so important.
Early and accurate laboratory diagnosis with quality-assured diagnostics is key for identifying and monitoring treatment in people living with viral hepatitis — and our efforts to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
At present, laboratory capacity for diagnosis and treatment monitoring in parts of our Region is inadequate. Suboptimal or non-quality assured diagnostics are often used, and good systems to ensure high-quality management and functioning of laboratories are not always in place.
Our Regional Action Plan for Viral Hepatitis, endorsed by Member States in 2015 sets out a series of milestones for improving surveillance and laboratory systems.
Both the Strategic Technical Advisory Committee for Viral Hepatitis, and the Hepatitis B Immunization Expert Resource Panel, have also recommended that WHO assist Member States in strengthening laboratory services and improving quality assurance.
The demand for technical assistance for laboratory services is growing. Member States have told us that they urgently need to expand the pool of technical resources available in the Region to improve the quality of laboratory services.
Accordingly, we very much look forward to hearing your recommendations for improving the quality of hepatitis laboratory services in our Region. Thank you again for being here this week.