GMS Working Group on Health Cooperation Emphasizes Effective Implementation of the GMS Health Cooperation Strategy 2019-2023
The Third Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Working Group on Health Cooperation, jointly organized by the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), was held on 12–13 December in Bangkok, Thailand. With the theme “Advancing Health Partnerships in the GMS,” the meeting gathered around 80 participants, consisting of health officials from GMS countries and representatives of development partners including presenters from ADB, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN), Standards and Interoperability Lab-Asia, World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health – OIE (Office International des Epizooties), and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
The meeting emphasized strengthening regional and country health systems in the GMS through effective implementation of the GMS Health Cooperation Strategy 2019-2023. The next steps for the working group are to finalize the Strategic Results Framework and Regional Action Plan for implementation of the strategy.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. Supakit Sirilak, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, underscored how working with partners to address health issues in the GMS and the endorsement of the GMS Health Cooperation Strategy 2019-2023 reflect a deep commitment to health cooperation to foster regional health security, address border area and migrant health, and strengthen health workforce development.
Ms. Ayako Inagaki, Director, Human and Social Development Division, Southeast Asia Department, ADB, outlined pressing issues for the working group: (i) migrant health solutions in the ASEAN and GMS, (ii) the region’s readiness to address the next pandemic outbreak, (iii) One Health research and actions, (iv) multi-sector responses to health impacts, and (v) increasing engagement of the private sector in health cooperation.
Ms. Pinsuda Alexander, Economist (Regional Cooperation), ADB, gave an overview of the draft GMS Long Term Strategic Framework (GMS 2030). For regional health cooperation, some areas proposed to be included in the strategy are trade in health services, climate change impacts, reducing gender gaps and inequalities, and cross-sector alliances.
The working group also discussed the proposed GMS Healthy Border Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Project presented by Mr, Rikard Elfving, Senior Social Sector Specialist, ADB. The $72 million project covering Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar aims to improve access to health services by migrant workers in SEZs on economic corridors.
The GMS countries also came up with initial project proposals to be explored for possible inclusion in the GMS Regional Investment Framework.