The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders have identified healthcare as a priority sector for region-wide integration. The ASEAN Health Sector cooperates with other external partners to achieve a healthy and caring ASEAN Community, wherein the people achieve maximal health potential through the promotion of healthy lifestyles; responding to all hazards and emerging threats; strengthening health systems and access to care; and, ensuring food safety in the region. In order to achieve these objectives, the ASEAN regularly organises the meeting of Health Ministers of its Member States.

As the Chair of ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM), Indonesia hosted the 15th AHMM and Related Meetings from 11-15 May in Bali, Indonesia, through a hybrid meeting format. The overall theme of the meeting was “Advancing the Achievement of ASEAN Health Development” signifying the ASEAN Health Sector Cooperation entering the final phase of implementation of its ASEAN Post-2015 Health Development Agenda for 2016-2021. The core discussions and agreements among the health ministers included (a) strengthening and scaling-up the prevention and preparedness, detection and response towards public health emergencies; (b) enhancing mitigation strategies to address current and future PHEs; (c) strengthening access to Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics and other essential medical supplies dedicated to general pandemic preparedness and response; and (e ) strengthening cooperation with external partners aligned with the 21 health priorities and health-related declarations/commitments of the ASEAN Health Sector.

The 15th AHHM affirmed ASEAN’s commitment to strengthen the prevention and preparedness towards public health emergencies through: 1) mobilising resources by exploring an expanded regional funding mechanism for COVID-19, from ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund to ASEAN Emergency Health Fund and the ASEAN Regional Reserve for Medical Supplies (RRMS) and taking measures to ensure timeliness and efficiency of accessing and using these resources; and 2) Optimizing and mobilising key regional actions and mechanisms, such as the ASEAN Emergency Operations Centre Network (ASEAN EOC Network) for Public Health Emergencies, ASEAN Risk Assessment and Risk Communication (ARARC) and the ASEAN Plus Three Field Epidemiology Training Network (ASEAN+3 FETN). The 15th AHHM also agreed upon strengthening the detection of public health emergencies, through optimising the utilisation of regional big data analytics, addressing the root cause of public health emergencies and response actions through the advancement of the Regional Public Health Laboratories Network (RPHL). The 15th AHHM also committed to strengthen access to Vaccines, Therapeutics, and Diagnostics (VTD) and other essential medical supplies dedicated to general pandemic preparedness and response.

The ASEAN Health Ministers also agreed to enhance mitigation strategies to address current and future public health emergencies through accelerating post-COVID-19 recovery through the ASEAN Health Protocol, Crossborder Contact Tracing and Rapid Outbreak Investigation, ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework (ATCAF) and technological advancements to facilitate smooth and safe international travels within and from and outside ASEAN as well as the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF) and promoting a healthy, well-connected ASEAN Community where COVID-19 vaccination certificates can be verified and recognised potentially through the development and operationalisation of the ASEAN Universal Verification Mechanism or any other mechanism created according to the World Health Organization’s Digital documentation on COVID-19 certificate: Vaccination Status: Technical Specification and Implementation Guidance.The 15th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting also agreed on establishing the ASEAN Center of Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED), which will address three pillars of pandemic management: detection; surveillance; and response and risk management. The ASEAN Health Ministers agreed upon strengthening regional and national capacities and capabilities for prevention and preparedness, detection and risk assessment, and response through the acceleration of the establishment and operationalisation of the ACPHEED, fostering ASEAN’s solidarity and centrality to coordinate the operationalisation of the ASEAN Strategic Framework on Public Health Emergencies (SF – PHEs) as well as the development of ASEAN Public Health Emergency Coordination System (APHECS), under the directive of ASEAN Health Sectoral Body.

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