WONCA at the WHO South Asia regional committee

Photo: Prof Pratap Prasad, WONCA SAR president with all members of the host organizing committee of WONCA SAR conference coming in 2015 at Dhaka

The 67th Session of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Regional committee for South East Asia (SEAR) was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh from September 9-12, 2014. It was attended by representatives of all 11 member states of the region, the United Nations and other agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations in official relations with WHO, including WONCA. WONCA was represented by Professor Pratap Narayan Prasad, WONCA South Asia region (SAR) president.

Photo: Pratap prasad with His excellency Dr Harsh Wradhan, union health minister of India

The Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, delivered the inaugural address at the joint inauguration of the 67th annual regional committee meeting and the 32nd meeting of Ministers of Health. Dr Margaret Chang, WHO Director General and Dr Poona K Singh, Regional Director WHO SEAR, delivered the Regional committees' opening address. Dr Chang focused her speech on Universal Global Health coverage and Ebola Virus. Dr Singh spoke of a four pronged strategy to address the persisting and emerging epidemiological and demographic challenges; advance universal health coverage and robust health systems; strengthen emergency risk management for sustainable development; and developing a strong regional agenda within the global health agenda in South East Asia.

A key agenda item during the meeting was discussion on the 'Regional strategy or strengthening health workforce education and training' during which Prof Prasad emphasised that every medical school should run an undergraduate and postgraduate course in family medicine in order to strengthen health services in the region. During the meeting resolutions were passed on the subjects of nutrition and food safety; health emergency fund; polio, injury prevention; immunization programs; HIV; research and development; mental health and NCDs.

Photo: Prof Prasad (second from left) with IFMSA representatives Dr Bronwyn Jones, Yameen Hamid, Wonyun Lee

This WHO regional meeting provided an opportunity for the WONCA region president to personally discuss with Ministers of Health and WHO country representatives, the role of Family Medicine in strengthening health systems, and WONCA's fundamental role in supporting this. Of note, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare for India expressed his interest in strengthening Family medicine, in India. Similarly interested were the Ministers and Secretaries of Health for the Maldives, Bhutan and Myanmar who invited further contribution from WONCA South Asia to help achieve this.

Links with the International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) in the region were also strengthened during the meeting. In addition being in Dhaka provided an opportunity to meet with the WONCA SAR 2015 conference committee, who look forward to representation of the IFMSA at WONCA SAR conference being held in Dhaka, in 2015, as well as greater participation by WHO leadership from South East Asia.

Prof Pratap Prasad
WONCA SAR president