As ASEAN continues to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the region must not lose the opportunity to learn the lessons from both the successes and challenges, to prepare for future pandemics and other public health threats more effectively.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar said this at the 2nd ASEAN Digital Public Health Conference at The Empire Brunei yesterday. He added, “We do not know what the next pandemic will look like, where it will come from or when it will be, but we do know that it will come, and this time, when it does, we must be ready as a region to ensure that we save lives and livelihoods. Our response must be faster, smarter and more targetted.
“Effective surveillance systems and timely information sharing continue be the backbone in strengthening regional preparedness. However, public health surveillance should not just be top-down, with monitoring only done by the authorities. Everyone has a role to play to safeguard the health of the population.
“Public health surveillance can only be effective with community engagement, transnational collaboration and knowledge sharing. Furthermore, the speed and accuracy of this knowledge transfer and dissemination is critical to public health emergency management,” he added.
Over the last three years, the minister said, “Many ASEAN countries have strengthened their digital health architecture with the use of new electronic tools that go beyond just pandemic management, and into finding cutting-edge ways of practicing precision public health. In this regard, it is particularly noteworthy that we had dedicated technical tracks sharing our experiences of how we leverage digital technology to combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and also how we can best invest in the healthcare ecosystem across ASEAN to create the conditions for digital health innovation.”
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah and senior officials also attended the closing ceremony.
The two-day conference brought together ASEAN finance and health leaders to chart the way forward for the region’s healthcare sector, particularly around accelerating the adoption of technology for future pandemic preparedness and expanded use cases of digital public health.