Bangkok: The WHO has brought together parliamentarians from Southeast Asia to discuss challenges and strengthen the public health system at a three-day conference of member nations starting here Monday.
The conference deals with the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, malnutrition, public health emergencies and protecting health from climate change.
"We tend to be concerned with health only when disease or sickness strikes. This is as true for individuals as it is for policymakers and healthcare providers," Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO`s regional director for Southeast Asia, said in a statement from the global health body.
"With the skyrocketing costs of medical care, if we focus more on keeping our populations healthy, we will not only enhance human productivity but also considerably reduce financial resources needed for setting up expensive diagnostic and curative facilities," added Plianbangchang.
The global health body is urging parliamentarians to focus on issues such as strengthening the public health workforce, promoting public health through strong policies, inequities in health and adequate financial allocations for public health.
"The tendency to view health through the lens of disease leads to disproportionate attention and diversion of resources for curative medical care at the expense of more cost-effective health promotion and disease prevention initiatives," the WHO added in the statement.
Other than the disease burden, Southeast Asia has also faced manmade and natural disasters that have imposed health challenges on the region. The meet aims to throw light on whether public health systems in the region are ready to address the provisions of the international health organisations.
"The region bears the highest rate of out-of-pocket expenses for health. This has been recognised as one of the most important reasons for the causation and perpetuation of poverty in the region," the WHO statement said.