Dr Phua Kai Hong, Associate Professor of Health Policy & Management and Ms Marie Lamy, Research Associate, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
29 Mar 2012
Seminar Room 3-1, Level 3, Manasseh Meyer, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 469C Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259772
12.30 – 2 pm
During this research seminar, Dr Phua Kai Hong and Ms Marie Lamy gave an introduction to their research project, funded by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the EU Centre in Singapore, which looks at the potential for ASEAN-led regional collaboration in public health policy in light of a new framework for global health governance.
In their introduction, they explained the importance of looking at health policy from a global perspective, as public health security issues have cross-border implications and are transnational in nature. As a result of globalisation, income inequality has grown significantly worldwide; rapid urbanisation and industrialisation have also accelerated climate change and increased the frequency of natural disasters, migration and the spread of infectious diseases. These all have significant consequences on public health, which is why the latter is increasingly put at the top of global agenda.
In Asia, such questions are especially pertinent, as the region is undergoing rapid socio-economic transformation, with high levels of intra-regional migration and rapid urbanisation. Insights gained through this research project might then provide some answers to how Asia’s growing economic prowess can translate into positive political influence to promote regional public health governance.
A comparative analysis of both the EU and ASEAN is being undertaken in their project in order to see the role the region takes as an intermediary, and to gain insights from the EU’s experience in developing regional health policy, as it has a longer history of regional integration. This would also provide answers as to how ASEAN would fit into a global health governance framework. In this sense, the EU’s experience in coordinating and taking collective action for health can offer the ASEAN some lessons as it explores its own potential for deeper cooperation and regional partnership to address new, cross-border health issues.
They highlighted that while regional cooperation developed as a result of recent global health scares, such as the H5N1 pandemic and the SARS outbreak, an analysis of existing regional disease surveillance mechanisms revealed that policy issues of voluntary disclosure and data reporting, the lack of resources, and issues related to contributions and access to resources still need to be ironed out. They also highlighted that more can be done in terms of the joint collection and sharing of data. Even the sharing of regional medical resources, while crucial to disaster planning and social insurance, encountered many obstacles in terms of logistical issues, deciding on collective financing and utilisation criteria, and divergent national interests and priorities.
Their preliminary findings revealed that civil society organisations have played an important role in filling the gaps in policy-making, but added that more dialogue is needed in the ASEAN region. While there is a basic framework for cooperation and dialogue, a push for heightened commitment in the area of health, through increased human capital and funding would go a long way.
Their findings also suggest that the open method of coordination, practiced by the EU in many policy fields, is well-suited to the ASEAN context, with its approach of soft agreements for regional integration and ideational convergence as a valuable tool towards deeper integration in the region. Despite the tremendous potential for deeper cooperation in ASEAN, much work still needs to be done to build the ASEAN health governance framework, which is why this project will be interesting to follow as it develops further.