Health & Life Sciences Update: Duque Appointed Health Secretary of the Philippines

Health & Life Sciences Update | November 7, 2017
Authors: Shay Wester, Hai Pham, Ying Hui Tng, Natalie McDaniel and Hui Ying Lee
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

November 16: Roundtable on Pharma Pricing Issues in ASEAN Countries: The Council is putting together a roundtable to discuss recent pharmaceutical pricing issues across ASEAN countries in our Singapore office. We will a) discuss your position on each of the issues and b) aim to find alignment among members to c) identify pathways to engage ASEAN governments beyond bilateral meetings. We will be covering issues in: Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia. A more detailed agenda will be sent out prior to the meeting. If you have any suggestions on the topics or any questions, please feel free to contact Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org.

December 6-8: Myanmar Business Mission: The US-ASEAN Business Council's annual business mission to Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, Myanmar on December 6-8, 2017. Requested meetings include President U Htin Kyaw, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Key Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament including Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) U Win Myint, Myanmar Investment Commission, and the UMFCCI. Please click here to register. Please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org with any questions or to express interest.

Q1 2018: The Health and Life Sciences Committee is looking to organise a mission to Vietnam and the Philippines next year. Please keep a look out for updates on that. Please contact Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org or Hai Pham at hpham@usasean.org with any questions or to express interest 

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Duque Appointed as Health Secretary of the Philippines

On October 26, President Duterte appointed Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) chairman Francisco Duque III to his old position as Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH). Duque previously served as Secretary of Health under former President Gloria Arroyo from June 2005 to January 2010. He completed his undergraduate and post-graduate courses in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas and finished his master’s in pathology at Georgetown University. Before joining the DOH, Duque was appointed president and CEO of the government-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) from 2001 to 2005. Duque’s initial priorities as DOH secretary include: Rebuilding of Marawi City and the strengthening of its health system; and developing a long term strategy focused on reducing the national maternal mortality rate and ensuring quality healthcare is accessible to all Filipinos. He has also noted that he would like to make the Philippines Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) “more sustainable”. Duque’s appointment follows the Commission on Appointments (CA)’s rejection of the ad interim appointment of Heath Secretary Paulyn Ubial on October 10. Undersecretary Herminigildo Valle, head of the DOH Office for Field Implementation and Management, was designated officer-in-charge of the DOH after the CA rejected Ubial’s appointment.

Vaccination Efforts Increase in Southeast Asia

In ASEAN, several nations have been working to improve their vaccination programs to better protect their populations from infectious diseases.

In Myanmar, approximately 14 million children will be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis (JE) in a school-based program being launch in November. A regular vaccination program will start in January 2018 for infants.

The Philippines Pediatric Society and Pediatric Infectious Disease Society released a position paper in early October continuing to recommend JE vaccination as part of the children’s immunization schedule, and stressed that vaccination is the only method proved highly effective for prevention.

In Singapore, health officials are aiming to change the perception that immunizations are primarily for children. The Ministry of Health recently released the National Adult Immunization Schedule, which includes seven types of vaccines to protect against eleven diseases. Singaporeans will be able to use up to S$400 from their Medisave per account for all recommend vaccinations to enhance vaccination coverage, but the vaccines are not subsidized by the government.

In Vietnam, the Ministry of Science and Technology is implementing a program to assess the technological capacity and need for technological innovation in vaccine production. This program includes the development of a vaccine technology map. Currently, Vietnam only produces vaccines to address a single disease, rather than three-in-one vaccines such as Tdap. The results of this program are hoped to improve overall capacity, as Vietnam currently only produces enough vaccines to meet 50% of demand.

Drug Resistant Malaria Spreading in Southeast Asia

A new strain of malaria from Southeast Asia has presented itself as serious global threat. The strain of drug-resistant malaria parasite emerged in Cambodia but has spread through parts of Thailand, Laos and Southern Vietnam. Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) has been shown to be ineffective in approximately one-third of cases in Vietnam and in up to 60% of cases in some areas of Cambodia. Furthermore, mosquitos have become increasingly resistant to pyrethroids, the recommended insecticide. Drug resistant malaria would be devastating in Africa, where 92% of all malaria cases occur.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

On October 30, the Council held a preliminary brainstorming call for the proposed capacity-building workshop for Indonesia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Public Procurement Agency (LKPP). The Council has been engaging members and the Indonesian government on the latter’s e-Catalogue. The primary objective is to help regulators understand the importance of innovation and quality for medical devices. The format may include a plenary session on cross-cutting issues across all care areas before having breakout sessions. The Council has communicated with the POKJA to seek alignment of their priorities with target care areas, but more information is needed about who is attending and the structures of the MOH and POKJA to tailor the content accordingly. Full call notes are available here.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
ASEAN
PHL, Asian nations struggle to meet global target to lower deaths in childbirth

Brunei
Brunei to bolster tie-ups to combat NCDs

Cambodia
Midwives treated 'like civil servants' battle Cambodia's maternal deaths
India health sector aims to bring in Cambodian patients
Improving maternal and newborn care in Cambodia

Malaysia
GST, cost of living see more people choosing govt healthcare
Malaysian Health Ministry doctors to staff Rohingya hospital in Bangladesh
PM: Govt spends RM178.9b for quality health services since 2009
Reusing certain medical devices is normal, says Health Ministry
Malaysia Is Building A Rohingya Hospital In Bangladesh

Myanmar
Immunisation a must for every child
National plan aims to boost health budget
Myanmar plans to replicate UT’s healthcare model
Asian Nations Struggle to Meet Global Target to Lower Deaths in Childbirth
Government takes oral health project to rural areas

Philippines
Duque returns to DOH helm
FAST FACTS: Who is new DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III?
CA rejects Paulyn Ubial as health secretary
PEZA okays P2.4-B medical tourism zone
FDA : 'Compassionate permits' for imported cannabis-based drugs allowed, but no request yet
OICs named for DOH, DICT

Singapore
Record jumps in hospital, clinic attendance last year
Patients with rare diabetes tracked with new registry
Singapore Transforms into Pharma and Medtech Hub
Adults here not keen on getting vaccinated
MOH introduces immunisation schedule for adults
SMC working on sentencing guidelines
$1.2m study to improve patient care for asthma and COPD

Thailand
Thailand enters 'War on Sugar' with tax on sweetened beverages
Thailand invests in medical tourism

Vietnam
Patients risk being left behind as foreign donors pull the plug on HIV/AIDS in Vietnam
HCM City sees low enrollment rate in family health plans
HCM City promotes medical tourism
​Health minister calls for protection of medical workers as assaults mount
Vaccine technology assessment expected to spur vaccine production
Strokes, a health burden for Việt Nam
Population ageing challenges Vietnam
VN records over 148,260 cases of dengue fever
VN to develop alerts for climate change-related diseases
​Vietnam scraps planned parenthood in revised population policy
Can Vietnam develop precise medicine?
Flood-hit areas prepare for disease outbreaks
Vietnam proposes relaxing two-child policy
Centre for purchasing medicines, medical equipment dissolved
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
ASEAN

PHL, Asian nations struggle to meet global target to lower deaths in childbirth GMA News Online 17th Oct 2017
It seemed a simple statement: women should not die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Yet two years after world leaders agreed to 17 global goals at the United Nations, including the childbirth target, countries in Asia Pacific are grappling to twin the rhetoric with social, cultural and political realities. An estimated 85,000 mothers died in 2015 from childbirth in the region, home to more than half of the world's population and some of its fastest growing economies, UN figures show, with the maternal mortality rate seen as a key way to measure improvement in a nation's health.

Brunei

Brunei to bolster tie-ups to combat NCDs Borneo Bulletin Online 15th Oct 2017
The Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi attended the 68th session of the World Health Organization Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Brisbane, Australia which was held from October 9-13. Health ministers and representatives from 37 countries and areas within the Western Pacific Region convene annually at the Regional Committee Meeting to discuss priorities and actions that will bring better health to the population of the world. The 68th session this year saw the attendance of Dr Tedros Adhanum Ghebreyesus, the new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Dr Shin Young-soo, the Regional Director of the Western Pacific Regional Office, who gave their respective remarks.

Cambodia

Midwives treated 'like civil servants' battle Cambodia's maternal deaths Reuters 17th Oct 2017
A fter three deliveries, including a stillborn, at her home in Perah Andong village in Cambodia, Yeng Sienghay gave birth to a healthy baby girl in the local health centre about four months ago, overseen by three midwives. Unlike her previous three pregnancies when Yeng did not visit the health centre even once, this time around she went to the centre every month - and every week in her eighth month - and diligently followed the midwife’s instructions.

India health sector aims to bring in Cambodian patients Phnom Penh Post 16th Oct 2017
Indian companies in the pharmaceutical and health care sector are seeking to enhance their footprint in the Kingdom by extending beyond pharmaceutical trade through state financing that could establish a direct link to bring Cambodian medical tourists to the subcontinent. Speaking on the sidelines of the Advantage Healthcare India 2017 – a summit for medical travel held annually in the southern Indian city of Bangalore – Sandeep Majumdar, president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia said that $36 million of last year’s total bilateral trade of $160 million was related to the health care industry.

Improving maternal and newborn care in Cambodia Khmer Times 10th Oct 2017
Cambodia has accomplished major successes in improving maternal and child health. Maternal deaths decreased from 427 in 2005 to 170 per 100,000 live births in 2014. Newborn deaths dropped in the same period of time from 28 to 18 per 1,000 live births. Despite these successes, maternal and neonatal mortality are still high by international and regional comparison. High rates of maternal and neonatal mortality are associated with inadequate and poor-quality maternal health care, including antenatal, delivery and postnatal care. Antenatal care is considered as a key maternal service in improving a wide range of health outcomes for women and children.

Malaysia

GST, cost of living see more people choosing govt healthcare Free Malaysia Today 23rd Oct 2017
The goods and services tax (GST) and overall increase in the cost of living has seen more people seeking medical care in government hospitals and clinics (klinik kesihatan), instead of in private hospitals. Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ravindran Naidu said the slowdown in the economy over the last two years and the burden of GST, has driven many patients to make the switch from private healthcare to that provided by the  government.

Malaysian Health Ministry doctors to staff Rohingya hospital in Bangladesh Malay Mail Online 17th Oct 2017
Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said Malaysia is ready to provide medical personnel and aid in Cox’s Bazar where many of the refugees fled to, but is currently awaiting approval from the Bangladesh government. — Bernama picKUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — Malaysia will not only be building a field hospital in Bangladesh to treat Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar but will also send doctors there, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said. The health minister said Malaysia is ready to provide medical personnel and aid in Cox’s Bazar where many of the refugees fled to, but is currently awaiting approval from the Bangladesh government, national news agency Bernama reported.

PM: Govt spends RM178.9b for quality health services since 2009 Malay Mail Online 10th Oct 2017
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said among them was the 1Malaysia Clinic initiative, which was first introduced in 2010 and and had grew to 361 branches nationwide so far. “The 1Malaysia clinics are placed at strategic locations throughout the country, open seven days a week from 10am to 10pm, offer minor treatment at a charge of only RM1 and free of charge for the elderly as well as people with disabilities. “Recently I also read a sharing on social media on how 1Malaysia clinic saved the life of a patient from an allergy to bees, through precise diagnosis of the patient’s condition and so forth,” he said in a posting in his blog najibrazak.com, tonight. Najib said the government also announced many facilities for Malaysians such as building and upgrading six hospitals in Perak, Sarawak, Kelantan, Kedah and Sabah.

Reusing certain medical devices is normal, says Health Ministry Malay Mail Online 25th Oct 2017
Recycling certain single-use medical devices has long been practised in Malaysia and has no connection with any budget constraint issues, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today. Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah stressed that all single-use medical devices used for patients with blood borne diseases were not reused, like the majority of such items for other patients. “However, there are some single-use medical devices that are used more than once, whereby it has to undergo reprocessing via thorough cleansing and sterilisation processes before it can be reused for few times,” Dr Noor Hisham said in a statement.

Malaysia Is Building A Rohingya Hospital In Bangladesh SAYS.com 19th Oct 2017
According to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia will build a RM3.5 million field hospital at a refugee camp that is housing the Rohingya ethnic community in Bangladesh. He made the announcement during a media briefing at the Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh yesterday, 16 October. UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has estimated that more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state and crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh since 25 August. Many of them are heavily dependent on humanitarian and welfare aid to survive, as they are deprived of food, water, health and other necessities.

Myanmar

Immunisation a must for every child The Myanmar Times 20th Oct 2017
Last year, nearly 60 people in the Naga Self-Administrative Zone died from measles, and public health authorities warned that the infectious disease could recur if the vaccine coverage is low. Immunization is key to fight infectious diseases that could kill children, according to Professor U Saw Win, a child specialist. “Every children has chance to get vaccinated through the government’s nationwide immunization programme,” he said. The vaccine coverage is approximately 80 to 90 percent of the population in the country and still about 10 to 20pc of children do not have vaccination at all or have incomplete vaccination.

National plan aims to boost health budget The Myanmar Times 17th Oct 2017
The National Health Plan aims to redress Myanmar’s low spending on health care. Myanmar currently allocates 3.65 percent of its total budget on health, which remains low by global and regional standards. For every US$10 spent on health in Myanmar, $7 comes directly from people’s pockets when consulting in hospitals or clinics. Less than $3 comes from the government.  On a national scale, Myanmar invested K62,048 ($51.7) on health per person in 2014. Compared to other countries in the region with similar levels of income, domestic health budget remains below average, according to the National Health Plan. 

Myanmar plans to replicate UT’s healthcare model The Hindu 25th Oct 2017
Senior officials from Myanmar Health Ministry visited Frontier Lifeline Hospital, the Mediville Basic Medical Science Park and Indira Gandhi Government General Hospital here recently. Khin Maung Aye, Head of Department of Cardiac Surgery, Yangon General Hospital; Khin Maung Lwin, Head of Department of Cardiac Surgery, University of Medicine; Yangon and Nwe Nwe, Head of Department of Cardiac Medicine, University of Medicine, Yangon, were part of the delegation.

Asian Nations Struggle to Meet Global Target to Lower Deaths in Childbirth The Irrawaddy 17th Oct 2017
It seemed a simple statement: women should not die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Yet two years after world leaders agreed to 17 global goals at the United Nations, including the childbirth target, countries in Asia Pacific are grappling to twin the rhetoric with social, cultural and political realities. An estimated 85,000 mothers died in 2015 from childbirth in the region, home to more than half of the world’s population and some of its fastest growing economies, UN figures show, with the maternal mortality rate seen as a key way to measure improvement in a nation’s health.

Government takes oral health project to rural areas The Myanmar Times 12th Oct 2017
Dr Win Zaw, assistant director, Department of Medical Services (Dental Health), told The Myanmar Times that department will be implemented in some 103 townships and next year it will be extended to more townships. “The result of the survey (Myanmar National Oral Health Survey) shows that we need to do more for oral health education, especially in rural areas. Survey shows dental and gum disease are high among the public.

Philippines

Duque returns to DOH helm Malay Business Insight 27th Oct 2017
PRESIDENT Duterte appointed Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) chairman Francisco Duque III to his old position as health secretary vice Paulyn Ubial, who was rejected by the Commission on Appointment early this month, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. The appointment papers of Duque, who served as health chief of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo from June 2005 to January 2010, were signed by Duterte on October 26. The President initially appointed Duque as member of the GSIS Board of Trustees in February this year but he was nominated by the board as chairman which Duterte approved. “Secretary Duque is not new to the DOH. He used to be its Secretary from June 2005 to January 2010. We wish him well in his present stint in the government,” Abella said. Duque was named chairman of the Civil Service Commission before the Aquino administration took office. He finished both his undergraduate and post-graduate courses in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas and his masters in pathology at the Georgetown University in the United States. Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge (OIC) Herminigildo Valle welcomed the appointment of Duque. Valle served as OIC for only two weeks or since October 12.  

FAST FACTS: Who is new DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III? Rappler 26th Oct 2017
The Department of Health (DOH) is welcoming a familiar face back as its new chief. Francisco Duque III is back to his old post as DOH secretary, replacing Paulyn Ubial, whose ad interim appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments on October 10. Duque had previously served as health secretary during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He finished medicine at the University of Santo Tomas and later took up a masteral degree in pathology at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Before joining the DOH, Duque was appointed president and CEO of the government-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) from 2001 to 2005. Following his stint at Philhealth, Duque was appointed health secretary from June 2005 to January 2010. After his DOH stint, Duque served as Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairperson under former president Benigno Aquino III from 2010 to 2015. While at the CSC, the commission developed its Roadmap for Development and Reforms for 2010-2015. The commission was also recognized by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia in partnership with the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), which awarded the Governance Trailblazer seal to the CSC thrice. Under President Rodrigo Duterte, Duque was appointed chairman of the Government Services Insurance Service. – Rappler.com

CA rejects Paulyn Ubial as health secretary Rappler 10th Oct 2017
The Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected the ad interim appointment of Paulyn Ubial as Department of Health (DOH) secretary on Tuesday, October 10. This was announced during the CA plenary session, after the CA health committee recommended to reject Ubial. Senator Gregorio Honasan II, CA health committee chair, said before the CA plenary that after 3 hearings, the panel reached a "difficult decision" to "withhold its consent to the ad interim appointment" of Ubial.

PEZA okays P2.4-B medical tourism zone Manila Bulletin Business 23rd Oct 2017
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has approved Centurial Medical Development Corp. for its P2.49 billion medical tourism facility, which houses 200 specialty clinics so far at Century City in Kalayaan, Makati. PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said Centurial Medial Makati is the largest outpatient medical facility in the country. It had a soft opening in June and was inaugurated last month, September. Based on its website, Centuria Medical Makati is a one stop, outpatient medical-IT facility located at the heart of Century City, Makati, Philippines, which will house more than 700 clinics.

FDA : 'Compassionate permits' for imported cannabis-based drugs allowed, but no request yet CNN 16th Oct 2017
An act to legalize the use of medical marijuana is moving forward in Congress, but the health department said there's already an existing mechanism that allows terminally-ill patients to source such prescribed drugs. As of October 14, when Congress went on recess, the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act was on second reading in the lower house.  But the Department of Health (DOH) said patients are allowed to import drugs and other devices not yet available in the country, including processed cannabis for medical purposes.

OICs named for DOH, DICT philstar.com 13th Oct 2017
President Duterte has named officers-in-charge for the departments of health and information and communications technology. Undersecretary Herminigildo Valle was designated officer-in-charge of the Department of Health after the Commission on Appointments rejected the appointment of DOH secretary Paulyn Ubial on Tuesday, according to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella. Valle is head of the DOH Office for Field Implementation and Management. Abella said Undersecretary Eliseo Mijares Rio Jr. would oversee the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) until a new secretary is appointed. Rio is the agency’s undersecretary for special concerns.

Singapore

Record jumps in hospital, clinic attendance last year The Straits Times 16th Oct 2017
Hospitals and clinics in Singapore have reported big increases in attendance, with an ageing population and people seeking medical help more readily - thanks to new government subsidies - seen as major factors. Hospital admissions increased by a record 9 per cent last year compared with 2015. This is more than double the annual increases of up to 4 per cent in the past decade. Similarly, polyclinic attendance rose by 8 per cent over 2015 - eclipsing the annual increases of 0.2 per cent to 4.9 per cent since 2007. Attendance at specialist outpatient clinics at public hospitals also spiked 5 per cent - the highest annual increase in a decade.

Patients with rare diabetes tracked with new registry The Straits Times 15th Oct 2017
For most people, detecting diabetes is a relatively straightforward matter of taking a blood test. But for Ms Tan, 23, it took a genetic test to confirm that she has diabetes. She does not have type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes, but a separate and almost unknown type called monogenic diabetes. Ms Tan, who declined to reveal her full name, is among an estimated 2,500 to 5,000 people here with monogenic diabetes. This is based on the prevalence of those afflicted in other populations, such as in Britain.

Singapore Transforms into Pharma and Medtech Hub Pharma Logistics 26th Oct 2017
Singapore is undergoing a significant infrastructure upgrade as its regional and international reach gains prestige. Research and consulting firm, GlobalData estimates Singapore’s pharmaceutical market at $948 million and increasing to $1.2 billion by 2021. With an estimated population of just shy of 6 million, Singapore’s domestic pharmaceutical market is small. However, its regional and international reach is well noted thanks to its pro-business environment and strong government support.

Adults here not keen on getting vaccinated The Straits Times 25th Oct 2017
Adult vaccination rates in Singapore are dismal and doctors say this is largely because people still believe that they are only needed by children or those going overseas. "People tend to think of vaccinations as something for kids, but there are vaccinations that people should be getting regularly," said Adjunct Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian. Prof Lim is deputy clinical director of the Communicable Disease Centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Last Saturday, the Health Ministry (MOH) announced that it had drawn up a list of seven vaccines that most Singaporeans should take at some point in their adult lives.

MOH introduces immunisation schedule for adults The Straits Times 22nd Oct 2017
From next month, adult Singaporeans can use their Medisave to pay for vaccinations which the Ministry of Health is recommending depending on their age and health. The new National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS), which lists who should be vaccinated and when, includes immunisation for diseases such as the flu and hepatitis B. It is the latest step in the country's push to encourage preventive care, and mirrors a similar schedule for children. The National Childhood Immunisation Programme dates back more than a century.

SMC working on sentencing guidelines The Straits Times 20th Oct 2017
The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) says it is working on sentencing guidelines to help disciplinary tribunals decide on penalties when a doctor is found guilty. The need for such guidelines was highlighted recently by a disciplinary tribunal, which found that the lack of such guidelines made its job more difficult. In the case, a general practitioner in Bedok was fined $30,000 for failing to refer a patient, who had a corneal ulcer, to a specialist "in a timely manner". The patient lost most of the sight in her left eye.

$1.2m study to improve patient care for asthma and COPD The Straits Times 18th Oct 2017
A three-year local study, which aims to improve the care of Singapore's asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, started on Monday. The $1.2 million study aims to create a database for research into respiratory diseases by accelerating the digitisation and integration of records of patients who suffer from asthma and COPD - a serious disease that limits airflow to the lungs.

Thailand

Thailand enters 'War on Sugar' with tax on sweetened beverages Times of Malta 23rd Oct 2017
Thailand has slapped tariffs on sugar likely to hit $9 million worth of US beverage exports, the US Agriculture Department said on October 20, as one of the top producers of the sweetener joins a growing list of regions implementing such taxes. The Thai government implemented its first-ever excise tax on sugar in beverages in a bid to reduce consumption, the report published on USDA's website said, citing industry estimates for the potential impacts on US manufacturers like PepsiCo Inc, Coca-Cola Co and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc.

Thailand invests in medical tourism International Medical Travel Journal 20th Oct 2017
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) 2018 marketing plan TAT Action Plan covers both international and domestic tourism. TAT’s marketing plan 2018 seeks to generate revenue and increase visitor arrivals, promote new ideas and follow the development agenda of Thailand in line with the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan and 2nd National Tourism Development Plan. To be targeted over the 12-month period of the fiscal year 2018, beginning October 2017, the international marketing plan strategy segments target customers worldwide ranging from first-timers to repeaters, senior citizens to sports enthusiasts. TAT will also emphasise on niche markets and create a brand image as a high-end end luxury travel destination.

Vietnam

Patients risk being left behind as foreign donors pull the plug on HIV/AIDS in Vietnam VnExpress International 15th Oct 2017
People living with HIV in Ho Chi Minh City have been given all the more reason to be concerned. Their anti-retroviral drug treatment could be interrupted starting from 2018 when the drugs are scheduled to be provided under Vietnam’s health insurance system.Most HIV clinics in the city have yet to sign a contract with Vietnam Social Security, the agency charged with administering the health insurance fund.“If patients with HIV/AIDS stop using anti-retroviral (ARV) medicine for one week, they will become resistant to the medicine, leading to the problem of preventing an epidemic in the city,” Vietnam News quoted Dr. Trieu Thi Thu Van as saying at a meeting in early September.Regular treatment suppresses the development of the virus and its risk of spreading, and actually allows patients to lead a relatively healthy and normal life.The problem is not just limited to Vietnam’s largest metropolis. Half of the country's HIV outpatient clinics are located in health facilities that come under the “preventive” element of Vietnam's healthcare system. But to provide care and treatment under health insurance, these facilities need to meet “higher” standards to be classified as “curative”.As an interim solution, experts suggest these clinics should merge with general hospitals.

HCM City sees low enrollment rate in family health plans Vietnam News 11th Oct 2017
Two years after the southern city launched family health insurance plans, family coverage languishes at just 24 percent—a disappointing result that augurs ill for the Government’s bid to achieve universal healthcare coverage by 2020. The 2014 Law on Health Insurance and other regulations stipulate that under the family or household health insurance plan, every member of a family or household listed in the household registration book (excluding the deceased and the temporarily absent) must buy health insurance. The plans are designed to be more affordable than individual plans, which the Government hopes will spur enrollment.

HCM City promotes medical tourism Vietnam Net 25th Oct 2017
Nguyen M., a 61 year-old overseas Vietnamese from Sweden, typically received treatment for his heart disease in Europe. But on a recent trip to Viet Nam, persuaded by the qualifications of Vietnamese doctors and the low cost of treatment here, he decided to schedule a coronary intervention at University Medical Hospital HCM City (UMH). M. is one of many international visitors treated at UMH: the hospital usually treats between 1,000 to 15,000 overseas Vietnamese and foreign patients every year, mostly in the departments of heart, gastroenterology, nerve or plastic surgery. In September, the centre established an international clinic with modern facilities, exclusively for foreign patients.

​Health minister calls for protection of medical workers as assaults mount Tuoi Tre News 25th Oct 2017
Vietnam’s Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien has condemned violence against health workers on Tuesday and called for wider protection of health practitioners. Minister Tien’s statement came after two violent assaults on doctors were reported over the last four days. On Friday, Dr. Tran Thi Thanh Hai, working at the medical center of Huong Lam Commune in Huong Khe District, Ha Tinh Province in north-central Vietnam, was on duty when she was assaulted by a 26-year-old male suspect. The assailant reportedly slashed Hai multiple times on her arms with a knife after she noticed that he was drunk and refused to give him a fluid infusion.

Vaccine technology assessment expected to spur vaccine production VietnamNet 25th Oct 2017
Currently, Vietnam can only produce single vaccines with medium-level technology, while products can meet just 50 percent of demand.  The establishment of a vaccine technology map assesses the current status, technological capacity as well as development trends, thus helping accelerate the production of ‘made-in-Vietnam’ vaccines. Assessing the technological capacity and the need for technological innovation in the production of vaccines for humans is one of the national science and technology programs being implemented at the Ministry of Science & Technology (MST). 

Strokes, a health burden for Việt Nam Vietnamnews 25th Oct 2017
Dr Nguyễn Huy Thắng, chairman of the HCM City Stroke Association, said: “The disabilities left by strokes are really a severe burden for families of patients and society.” The association’s statistics show that more than 200,000 people recorded suffer from strokes each year. Strokes are the leading cause of death in the country, Thắng said at talk show on "Healthy Aging: Is stroke preventable or not?" held in HCM City HCM City Public Health Association in co-operation with Bayer. “At the People’s Hospital 115 where I work, nearly 15,000 stroke victims are hospitalised for emergency treatment each year,” Thắng said. According to the HCM City University Medical Centre, it admits 100-120 patients with strokes every month.

Population ageing challenges Vietnam Vietnam Net 24th Oct 2017
There are now more than 10 million elderly people in Vietnam, of whom 2 million are over eighty years old. Vietnam has had an ageing population since 2011 with its ageing pace among the fastest in the world, posing a serious challenge to the country. Vietnam obtained a golden population structure in 2007. However, it now seems that the golden population structure and population ageing are taking place at the same time. One of the indexes best illustrating the trend is the ratio of dependents and people at working age. In 2012, it dropped to 4.4:10 from 5:10 in 2006 and 9:10 in 1979.

VN records over 148,260 cases of dengue fever Viet Nam News 20th Oct 2017
More than 148,260 cases of dengue fever have been reported across the country since the outbreak began earlier this year, of which 30 people have lost their lives. This number was provided by the Ministry of Health during an intensive training workshop on the treatment of dengue fever and foot, hand and mouth disease in six western provinces that have witnessed a marked increase in the number of patients. The workshop, which ended on Thursday, was held in Cần Thơ City.

VN to develop alerts for climate change-related diseases Viet Nam News 19th Oct 2017
Việt Nam is developing an integrated database and early warning system for diseases related to climate change, Đỗ Mạnh Cường of the Ministry of Health said on Thursday (October 19). At a meeting held in HCM City, Cường, an official with the ministry’s Health Environmental Management Agency, said the ministry was developing a health adaptation plan to climate change for the 2017-21 period. The World Health Organisation and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that extreme weather conditions have affected access to healthcare and increased communicable and non-communicable diseases.

​Vietnam scraps planned parenthood in revised population policy Tuoi Tre News 18th Oct 2017
For the first time in 50 years, Vietnam has shifted its population policy from ‘planned parenthood’ to ‘maintaining stable birth rates’. The news was announced on Tuesday at a press conference held by Vietnam’s Ministry of Health. “Between 1960 and 1993, our population policy was to encourage that families should not have more than two children each,” said Nguyen Van Tan, deputy director general of the General Office for Population and Family Planning. “Now we want to encourage each family to have two children and keep the birth rate as close as possible to the current replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman,” he said.

Can Vietnam develop precise medicine? VietnamNet 18th Oct 2017
To develop precise medicine, Vietnam not only needs fundamental factors such as a workforce, equipment, professional knowledge, and big data about genomes, but also changes in policy. According to the Precision Medicine Initiative, precision medicine is "an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle of each person". Duong Quoc Chinh from the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion said precision medicine is the next step in personalized medicine.  With personalized medicine, many factors have to be taken into consideration including patients’ biological nature (gene), environmental conditions and lifestyles, and precise medicine quantifies all of this in treatment.

Flood-hit areas prepare for disease outbreaks Viet Nam News 17th Oct 2017
The Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health warned yesterday that flooding and rains in central and northern provinces could trigger disease outbreaks. According to the department, the heavy rains and floods that hit the country last week arrived at the peak time season for diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, typhoid and the flu. Garbage and waste overflow, borne along by floodwaters, cause pollution and diseases.

Vietnam proposes relaxing two-child policy Phnom Penh Post 12th Oct 2017
- In a bid to boost low fertility rate, the Ministry of Health has proposed relaxing the country's two-child policy, allowing Vietnamese parents to decide the number of children they want. Troubled by low fertility rates in the southern provinces, the Ministry of Health has proposed relaxing the country’s two-child policy. The proposal was one of three population planning proposals presented by the ministry at the 12th Party Central Committee’s sixth meeting underway in Hanoi.

Centre for purchasing medicines, medical equipment dissolved Viet Nam News 9th Oct 2017
The public assets procurement centre for the city’s healthcare sector was dissolved under a decision by HCM City’s People’s Committee. The dissolution aims at increasing self-reliance of public hospitals and medical centres while purchasing medicines and medical equipment. Under the decision, public hospitals and medical centres will undertake the purchase of medicines and medical equipment as per the Law on Bidding.