SEATTLE, 7th August, 2023 (WAM) -- Health ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) member economies are strengthening primary health care for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, and seeking to increase investments in public health.
Convening in Seattle against the backdrop of increased threats to people's wellbeing and the economy at large, ministers reiterated their commitment to reinforce the region's health systems to better prepare and respond to future pandemics and health emergencies through sustainable health financing and innovative digital health.
"Without sustainable financing, we cannot ensure resilient, inclusive, and equitable health systems," said the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra who chaired the 13th APEC High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy on Sunday. "Without strong primary care systems, our health systems and people are more vulnerable and less prepared for the next pandemic."
The APEC Healthcare Financing Roadmap reported that average government spending on health in the APEC region has remained below 5 percent in the last two decades, increasing only slightly from 2.8 percent of GDP in 2000 to 4 percent of GDP in 2017.
Furthermore, out-of-pocket spending on healthcare has almost doubled between 2003 and 2016, reaching around USD 400 per capita. Almost one in five people in the APEC region are at risk of falling into extreme poverty as their healthcare burdens increase.
Recognizing that governments have competing priorities and limited budgets, ministers looked at how public and private sector funds could be leveraged together and considered measures to increase the role of the private sector. They also explored the use of innovative and alternative financing models to deepen the level of coverage provided in APEC economies.
"Everyone-economies, civil society partners, philanthropies, businesses-must step up to build solutions that can prevent, prepare, and respond to future pandemics and other biological threats," Secretary Becerra continued.
Secretary Becerra called for more cooperation in exploring the opportunities for digital health, expanding immunization programs, treating mental health, and advancing regulatory harmonization.
"Let's look seriously at the global threat of antimicrobial resistance, the need for medical supply chain resiliency, the intersection of climate and health, and One Health and the economy," Secretary Becerra added, urging ministers to deepen their commitment to improving public health.
"The healthier people are the less likely they are to get sick or face serious consequences when they do. Let's move from a focus on illness care to one that prioritizes wellness," Secretary Becerra concluded. "All of this, together, advances global health security and wellbeing."
Members of APEC comprise Russia, Brunei, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Peru.