PH cited for ‘strong technical capabilities’ in disease control

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Photo: WHO Representative Dr Gundo Weiler and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (twitter.com/WHOPhilippines)

By William Casis i FilAm Star Correspondent

The Philippine government has committed to enhance the prevention of the global spread of diseases after it concluded the International Health Regulations (2005) Joint External Evaluation (IHR – JEE).

“We will only be able to stop the spread of diseases by working together — not only among the health sector but also with all the relevant departments in our government,” said Health Sec. Francisco Duque.

The Philippines faces outbreaks of diseases time after time, such as measles, influenza, dengue or leptospirosis; not to mention the threat of Zika, Avian Influenza, and other public health threats of international concern.

With an ever-increasing volume of international travel and trade, the Philippines, like many other countries, is vulnerable to the importation of emerging infectious diseases, which often causes complex and considerable significant social consequences and substantial economic losses.

Dr Gundo Weiler, WHO Representative in the Philippines, noted that the
more the country is prepared, the more lives will be saved.

“I commend the leadership of the Philippines in volunteering for a Joint External Evaluation.

his will pave the way for the country to understand their current situation and know how to further strengthen their national systems to prevent the international spread of diseases,” said Weiler.

Dr Mark Salter from Public Health England, who served as the leader of the international team of experts, said “the Philippines has developed strong technical capabilities in various areas, such as their field epidemiology training program, disease surveillance, and national health laboratory system.”

“With improved coordination across agencies, and optimized investment at local units, the Philippines has the ability to further strengthen its public health emergency preparedness and response capacities.”

Duque said the evaluation intends to assess the country’s preparedness for disease outbreaks and public health emergencies.

With improved coordination across agencies, and optimized investment at local units, he asserted that “the Philippines has the ability to further strengthen its public health emergency preparedness and response capacities.”

The Philippines  will use the recommendations of the Joint External Evaluation mission to strengthen its health security systems.

The international experts, who participated in the event, were involved in 19 technical areas like food safety, disease surveillance, outbreak response and public health emergency preparedness, among others. They have  been working with representatives from the various Departments of the Government of the Philippines to conduct the JEE.

The DoH requested the external experts to visit the country to review the current status and identify opportunities to further strengthen the country’s preparedness.

Other countries to have conducted a JEE in the Western Pacific Region include Australia, Cambodia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Viet Nam.

The JEE process was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with member states and partners to help countries evaluate their capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease and other public health threats.

This includes a set of core capacities required under the International Health Regulations (2005) – a global legal framework signed by 196 countries, including the Philippines.

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