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Public Health and Medicine

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Global Challenges and Opportunities

The following challenges facing public health are adapted from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Engaging for Health: Eleventh General Programme of Work 2006-15: A Global Health Agenda.

  • Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)

Chronic NCDs already represent 60 percent of global diseases and the mortality rate for NCDs in developing countries is rapidly increasing due to, among other things, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. In some cases, such diseases may be due to certain lifestyle choices. In other cases, however, such diseases may be due to other factors: In small island developing states, for example, a lack of agricultural development and the unavailability of fresh, locally grown produce can encourage such nations to import canned goods and processed foods.

  • Child and Maternal Mortality

Further resources and efforts need to be given over to child and maternal mortality to ensure that targets for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are met by 2015:

Few developing countries are currently on track to meet the [MDG] target for reducing child mortality, despite this being largely due to common conditions for which knowledge and effective interventions exist. Neonatal deaths have not declined as much as other infant and child deaths. Although the maternal mortality ration has declined in countries with lower levels of mortality, those with high maternal mortality rates are experiencing stagnation or even higher death rates. Gaps in mortality rates within countries are still large.

  • Poor Public Health Systems and Health Care-related Human Resources

Many health care systems in developing countries do not offer universal access to services, while private health care services may be too expensive for those with the greatest need of such services. Public health care systems may lack basic infrastructure, equipment and technologies. Furthermore, there is often a lack of health care-related human resources and know-how in developing countries, for which reason governments may need to provide incentives that halt the “brain drain” of qualified medics from developing countries moving to developed countries. Health care-related management and administrative capacity also need to be improved.

  • Rural vs. Urban Health Care

Certain groups and communities in rural areas cannot gain access to crucial public health resources and services, even if they are known to be cheap and efficient. This is because a disproportionate amount of resources are allocated to urban areas, and because “hi-tech” medical services and equipment tend only to be available in larger urban centers. Pilot projects and “islands of excellence” often prove not to be as useful as initially expected, because they are not scaled up to expand the coverage of health care into areas which lack such services.

  • Health Systems in Times of Crisis

Health systems in developing countries are often insufficiently advanced, or have insufficient resources, to cope with the increased burden in times of crisis, or when natural disasters occur. The pressure upon such systems continues to have a “knock-on” effect after the immediate danger has passed, for example due to the depletion of stockpiles of medicines and medical materials.

  • Rapid Urbanization without Pro-poor Improvements to Health and Living Conditions

Inadequate water supplies, the spread of water-borne diseases, poor housing, overcrowding and unhealthy working conditions are particularly important public health challenges due to increases in rates of urbanization and the growth of urban slums.

Given the challenges described above, the WHO’s Eleventh General Programme of Work identifies seven priority areas of work:

1. Investing in health to reduce poverty;
2. Building individual and global health security;
3. Promoting universal coverage, gender equality and health-related human rights;
4. Tackling the determinants of health;
5. Strengthening health systems and equitable access;
6. Harnessing knowledge, science and technology;
7. Strengthening governance, leadership and accountability.

Taiwan’s Strengths and Resources

Taiwan’s public health and medical systems – such as public policy development, public health promotion, community health care and epidemic monitoring and management systems, as well as other areas – embody a wealth of successful experiences that partner countries can learn from.

  • World-renowned Medical Technologies

Taiwan’s medical technologies and the quality of the sector is impressive, attracting international attention. Taiwan was the fourth country in the world – and the first in Asia – to establish an evaluation system for its national health service. The first child liver transplant and the first kidney transplant in Asia were both performed here, while Taiwan was also the first country in Southeast Asia to establish a craniofacial center, which has achieved a 100 percent success rate in the treatment of cleft palate and lip. Taiwanese medical teams are also involved in research into rare diseases.

  • Sound Health Care Systems

Taiwan’s outstanding achievements extend beyond medical and health care: The country is an important global base for ICT-related research and development, applications and production. Taiwan has already built a telecare system whose many applications combine modern ICT and medical diagnosis to provide patients with real-time monitoring services via wireless technology (WiMAX). The system provides patients with 24-hour control over their health, using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to trace medication securely and track identities, thereby offering patients greater security.

  • Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases

Taiwan has also proved to be effective actor in the prevention and treatment of various infectious diseases, with malaria, smallpox and rabies having all been eradicated. The effectiveness of Taiwan’s tuberculosis controls also surpasses standards set by the WHO. In addition, the management and surveillance of diseases throughout the country has seen the Department of Health’s Center for Disease Control establish a comprehensive, Internet-enabled network that allows various epidemic prevention units to access the information they require in the shortest possible time, so that prevention work can take place as efficiently and quickly as possible.

TaiwanICDF’s Objectives and Methods

At present, the two strongest trends in global health care are the globalization of health care-related humanitarian assistance and system enhancement to international health care. Firm efforts are also being made to achieve the SDGs. The TaiwanICDF’s operations in public health and medicine integrate Taiwan’s valuable experiences in the prevention of epidemics and the implementation of foreign aid projects in medical and public health development by public health and medical programs and training for partner countries’ healthcare personnel. The methods we employ to assist partner countries to strengthen public health and medicine are described in further detail below.

  • Build the Capacity to Develop Partner Countries’ Health Care Systems

To harmonize our efforts with the health care-related MDG targets of partner governments, we will strengthen cooperation with other countries, supporting visits and on-the-job training to enhance the competencies of government officials working in medical administration and management, so as to improve the skills of health practitioners and primary health care services. Each year we organize several professional workshops related to the field of public health and medicine to strengthen human resources in partner countries. For example, our Workshop on Healthcare Management, organized for participants from the South Pacific and Africa, covers the management of human resources and the development of medical management policies and practices, which cultivates talent in medical management amongst such partner countries and promotes international health care affairs through associated exchanges. Besides, we provide scholarships (International Higher Education Scholarship Program) that enable talented young citizens from developing countries to come to Taiwan to pursue their higher education. The course materials and learning objectives are specifically designed to address key issues of public health and medicine.

  • Draw on Resources from Taiwan’s Public and Private Health Care Systems; Enhance Partners’ Health Care Systems

To respond to public health and medicine related issues in the SDGs, the TaiwanICDF continues to draw on Taiwan’s advantages in public health and medicine along with our solid experience in foreign aid to assist our partner countries to develop their public health and medical system. Moreover, we have expanded our aid area from providing medical services to upgrading the quality of our partner countries’ public health and medical services, and focusing on maternal and infant health care, disease prevention on HIV, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases, chronic disease prevention, and promoting health information and management system.

The TaiwanICDF will continue to use the professional resources from Taiwan’s medical institutions to plan and operate public health and medical programs in our partner countries, thereby assisting our partner countries to strengthen their medical care and public health system.

Sources: Engaging for Health: Eleventh General Programme of Work 2006-15: A Global Health Agenda. (World Health Organization)

Press Releases

  1. Reinforcing Paraguay’s Health Information System
  2. First Female Chief Medical Officer Leads Medical Mission in Burkina Faso
  3. TaiwanICDF and Taipei Veterans General Hospital Collaborate on Safeguarding St. Kitts and Nevis Chronic Kidney Disease Care
  4. TaiwanICDF assists Belizean nurses in acquiring professional certification
  5. TaiwanICDF Partners with Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital to Protect Maternal and Neonatal Health in Burkina Faso

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