Health: To set health priorities and discuss the health agenda for the South East Asia Region (SEAR), WHO experts and senior officials from the health ministries of the 11 member countries will attend the 69th session of the WHO Regional Committee meeting in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe will inaugurate the meeting today.

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) will be a key agenda of the five-day meeting as it is currently the world’s leading cause of illness and death.

NCDs, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases kill nearly 8.5 million people every year in the region.

An official with the WHO South East Asia Regional Office said that health security is a big problem in the world with all the different disease outbreaks. Major international outbreaks like ebola and Zika have occurred in the last two years.

Besides civil unrest, conflicts and natural disasters, the other global challenges the region is facing is aging populations. People are living longer and addressing the health care needs of the older population is a challenge for many countries.

“To coordinate international response to these health challenges WHO convenes global and regional health meetings each year,” an official said.

The meetings also provide member states the opportunities to set their health agenda and priorities for the next year and build partnership and responses, the official added.

Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage, Anti-microbial resistance, time bound elimination of neglected tropical diseases, ending preventable maternal and child mortality and international health regulations will also be focused on at the meeting.

First review of progress and challenges on the decade of health workforce strengthening in the region, promoting physical activity, addressing the double burden of malnutrition and migration and health will be other key areas to be discussed.

Three Bhutanese representatives from the health ministry will attend the regional committee.

Last year, the regional committee meeting was hosted in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Dechen Tshomo | Colombo