Statement of Dr Kidong Park on the occasion of the Provincial Health Partnership Group Meeting, Ho Chi Minh City

Dr Kidong Park
19 October 2017, Ho Chi Minh City

It is my pleasure to co-chair this provincial meeting of the Health Partnership Group, alongside Dr Giang Huong, Dr Lien Huong and Dr Hung.

The Health Partnership Group is a high-level policy dialogue forum of key health partners in Viet Nam. It was established formally in 2004 and has been active in its current form since 2009, in order to improve the effectiveness of development cooperation in the health sector. It is the primary forum for developing trust, building common understanding and facilitating coordination in the health sector.

It convenes regularly every quarter. One of four meetings each year is held at the provincial level.

This year, the HPG decided to have its meeting in Ho Chi Minh city, today, with the topic of the impact of climate change on health and Viet Nam's response.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Climate change affects social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

Although climate change may bring some localized benefits, such as fewer winter deaths in temperate climates and increased food production in certain areas, the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative.

It is estimated that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year globally, from malnutrition, malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and heat stress, and billions of dollars in direct damage costs to health.

Viet Nam is among the countries at extreme risk for the impact of climate change and natural disasters, especially along its coastline and in mountainous areas. Hazardous weather events in Viet Nam are becoming more frequent and intense and are difficult to forecast due to climate change.

Disaster and extreme climate events such as drought and salinity intrusion in the Mekong Delta, Central Highlands and Southern Central provinces, risk derailing development gains of this country.

This year the country has faced numerous climate-related challenges. These include the devastating floods and storms that have taken lives and impacted the livelihoods of people in central and northern Viet Nam this past week, the dengue outbreak, worsening levels of air pollution and persistently high rates of stunting and malnutrition among ethnic minority groups.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Protecting health from climate change is a priority of WHO. WHO's new Director-General Dr Tedros has put the health impacts of climate and environmental change as one of the issues at the top of his agenda.

Under his leadership WHO plays a key role in advancing both mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate and environmental change, working in close partnership with other UN agencies and stakeholders.

WHO focuses its effort on advocating and raising awareness of climate risks to health; strengthening partnerships to improve knowledge and evidence and enhance protection of health from climate risks; enhancing scientific evidence; and strengthening health systems to cope with climate-related health threats.

WHO has produced a number of key documents that we would like to share here today.

- A report on climate change and health in the Western Pacific region. This synthesizes the scientific basis of climate change, provides evidence from countries including Viet Nam, and offers policy direction to mitigate and address the impacts of climate change on health.
- Guidelines for improving indoor air quality, with a recommendation to reduce household fuel combustion to improve health and mitigate climate change
-A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease related to ambient air pollution. Air pollution is a marker of sustainable development as resources of pollution produce climate-modifying pollutants.

The recommendations that come out of these three documents consistently underscore the need for strong health systems that are resilient to climate change.

The Government’s agenda to strengthen Viet Nam’s grassroots health network based on principles of primary health care and UHC, and expand the role of commune health stations to educate communities on how they can protect and promote their own health, is commendable, and consistent with this direction.

Ladies and gentlemen

Convening this meeting here in HCMC is an opportunity for us to learn and discuss how a diversity of departments of health, other government departments and health facilities are working to prevent, prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change and health.

To kick start the discussions today we will hear international experiences in responding to climate change to protect health, from the two UN agencies (WHO and UNDP) working on climate change and health in Viet Nam.

We will also hear from the national and local levels on the impact of climate change on health in Viet Nam, and the directions and priorities that have been set to address this at the central level as well as the local level – particular for Viet Nam’s southern provinces.

In closing, I would like to express WHO’s commitment to continued collaboration with the Government in this important area.

I would also like to thank the HCMC People’s Committee and Department of Health for their kind hospitality, and Professor Long for the opportunity to co-chair today’s meeting on behalf of development partners. I look forward to a productive discussion this morning.

Xin cam on.

Dr Kidong Park