Health“The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN is an organization with most member countries still far from being considered as advanced or first class countries.”

Poverty is still a problem in the region, and is reflected in the region’s health situation. The economic, political, and social diversity of ASEAN societies also contribute to health issues.

THE ASEAN HEALTH SITUATION

Data compiled from the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, and the World Bank reveal a great disparity in health conditions. Richer countries like Singapore and Brunei tend to have healthier citizens while the less wealthy ones like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam suffer from lower access to health care and are less prepared in handling emergency health issues and threats.

Earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and volcanic eruptions cause numerous fatalities and consequent environmental conditions that further affect people’s lives. Earthquakes have been big problems in Indonesia in the recent decades. Floods have been chronically affecting many areas in the Philippines and Thailand.

International trade is also one area that influences health conditions across Southeast Asia. The spread of cheap but tainted goods and unsafe agricultural produce affects the lives of millions of people in the region. The threats of A1H1 and swine flu are big health problems that require careful and decisive solutions.

PREVAILING HEALTH WOES

The Philippines has to wrestle with poverty and a large population to make healthcare more accessible to more citizens.Burma and Vietnam are trying to address the spread of HIV/AIDS. HIV prevalence in Burma is estimated at 1.3% while it is 0.5% for Vietnam. Thailand is seeking to fix the health disparity between the country’s wealthy and poor populations. Even relatively-rich Singapore has to deal with health issues, mainly attributed to pollution and unhealthy lifestyles.

Malaria is still a major health burden. Eliminating the disease has become a national goal for Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Successes in malarial control are threatened by the emerging resistance to antimalarial medicines in the region. Because of this, several countries have signed the “Declaration of the 7th East Asia Summit on Regional Responses to Malaria Control and Addressing Resistance to Antimalarial Medicines” on November 20, 2012.

Measles is another health problem affecting the region. Around 45% of global fatalities, or 70,700 children died because of the disease in 2011. It is estimated that over 8 million children don’t have any form of protection against the disease.

Non-communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies are also significant health issues among ASEAN countries. Southeast Asia has 27% of the global disease burden due to noncommunicable diseases. Every year, nearly 8 million people die due to non-communicable health conditions. This is more than half of all deaths recorded in the region. Smoking and other vices including habitual alcohol consumption, drug addiction and the consumption of unhealthy food contribute to the prevalence of major health threats.

REGIONAL ACTION PLAN ON HEALTHY LIFESTYLES

As ASEAN economies steadily gain ground, new health problems notably emerge. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN Secretary-General, said that wealth increase across Southeast Asian countries is introducing a new wave of health problems such as diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, and hypertension. Lack of exercise, stress from work or business endeavors, consumption of instant food and sugary beverages, and vices such as smoking and alcohol binging are the identified culprits of these non-communicable diseases.

ASEAN currently has a regional action plan to make all citizens adopt healthy lifestyles by 2020. It seeks to educate and empower everyone to live healthily and help create an environment that provides for more accessible and affordable healthy lifestyle choices.

 

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