See elderly as valuable resource: Minister

|     James Kon     |

THE Minister of Health, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi, in his opening remarks as the Chairman of the 7th Asean Plus Three (APT) Health Ministers Meeting, voiced concerns on how the regional bloc should meet the health needs of an increasingly aging population, whom he described as ‘assets’ to their respective nations.

At the close of the 13th Asean Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM) and Other Related Meetings at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas recently, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain said, “Population ageing is a positive development, because it means more people are now living longer than ever before. We also recognise that an aging population presents challenges, but we must reject the framing of ageing as solely a problem that will incur huge costs for the government expenditure.

“Our older people are a valuable resource, and indeed all of our APT countries have a tradition of respect for the elderly. I look forward to discussions on how we can enable our older generation to retain their health, and ensure that they continue to be assets in our communities.”

The minister also pointed out the importance of Asean cooperation with its three dialogue partners of China, Korea and Japan.

Since the establishment of the APT Health Cooperation, he said, “We have gone through challenges together, particularly in tackling issues arising from emerging infectious diseases such as pandemic influenza, MERS-CoV and recently, the Zika Virus outbreak. We have grown stronger together, and in the process, we have developed resilience.

The Minister of Health, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi chairing the 7th Asean Plus Three (APT) Health Ministers Meeting recently. – JAMES KON

“We have made significant progress in areas such as ageing, disaster, health management, universal health coverage, and pandemic preparedness and response. These areas have already translated into successful programmes such as the APT Field Epidemiology Training Network and the APT Partnership Laboratories.

“In Vietnam, the leaders have endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For health, the striking difference in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) appears to be a shift away from disease-specific vertical programmes, or interventions targeted solely at specific groups.

“The SDGs move us towards an emerging understanding of a holistic model for health, where each and every person represents a unique asset. Therefore, as health system leaders, we must focus our approach towards one, where we use every opportunity for health improvement and disease prevention, starting from preconception all the way through to later life. This meeting is an opportunity to re-evaluate and discuss how best to shape our APT health partnership, in order to more effectively meet our SDG aspirations.”

In addition to Asean Health Ministers and heads of delegations, the meeting was also attended by Wang Hesheng, the Vice-Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China; Michiyo Takagi, the State Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan; and Kwon Deok-cheol, the Vice-Minister of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea.