WHO South-East Asia: The promise of a healthier, more equitable & secure Region

Published on: 2018/05/09

Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh


The public health arena is changing fast. The paradigm shifts are evident in the agendas of the World Health Assembly and Regional Committee meetings over the past decade. The dominance of communicable diseases, in spite of their continued relevance, stands eroded.

Interest Category

WHO South-East Asia, WHO, Healthcare

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WHO South-East Asia

South-East Asia is the most populated part of the world with covers almost a quarter of the world population. The main objective of WHO-South East Asia is to,

  1. Leadership on health matters
  2. Articulate evidence-based policy options
  3. Provide technical support
  4. Monitor health trends

Countries that are under WHO-South East Asia are,

  1. India
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Indonesia
  4. Myanmar
  5. Maldives
  6. Bhutan
  7. Nepal
  8. Thailand
  9. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  10. Timor-Leste
  11. Sri Lanka

The primary areas of work

The primary areas of work of WHO-South East Asia include,

1. Communicable disease department – Diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria has caused innumerable deaths in the south-east Asia region. The disease burden is huge for the countries in this region as most of these countries have low per capita income.

2. Family health gender and life course – The prime focus of this is the health and development of families and individuals. Child and adolescent health, healthy aging, gender, equity and human rights, immunization and vaccines, maternal health are the prime focus of this program.

3. Health systems development – Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is about ensuring that people get an equitable healthcare system without any financial problems.

4. WHO Health emergencies programme (WHE) – Supports the disaster and emergency needs of the countries. The recent Nepal earthquake, Myanmar floods, Tsunami in Indonesia, Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, are some of the recent programs of WHE.

5. Noncommunicable diseases and environmental health (NDE) – There are two main teams under NDE which consist of

a) Noncommunicable disease and risk factors:

Policies and strategies for noncommunicable disease and management of the disease. Tobacco surveillance and tobacco-free initiative. Disability prevention and rehabilitation, nutrition for health and development.

b) Social determinants of health and environmental health:

Water and sanitation, environmental health and development of sustainable healthcare.

The South-East Asia Region was established in the year 1948. It is one of the first six regions of WHO. There were many collaborative efforts which made WHO focus on improving the health of the people by eradicating diseases like smallpox, overall improvement in the life-expectancy and reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates.

Read more – Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh is appointed as the Regional Director in the year 2014. Dr. Poonam tells the story since inception and the agenda of WHO that she is working on.

The instances of other diseases like guinea-worm disease, polio, and leprosy have also come down drastically with measures taken by WHO. Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria still pose a tough challenge, however, WHO has taken many measures which promise to give remarkable results in the future.