“The question for us in ASEAN is: have we learned the lessons of COVID-19? Are we, in fact, better prepared to deal with these situations than we were before? prepare, we prepare to fail,” said the Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary (Policy) of the Ministry of Health (MoH), Dr Hajah Anie Haryani binti Haji Abdul Rahman.
She posed these questions during the 12th Steering Committee Meeting of the ASEAN Plus Three Field Epidemiology Training Network (ASEAN+3 FETN) and related meetings at Empire Brunei yesterday.
Dr. Hajah Anie Haryani said the meeting was the first in-person FETN meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have witnessed firsthand the devastation (COVID-19) brought to our communities, both from a health and socio-economic perspective. Infectious disease threats continue to pose such risks,” she said.
“In addition to COVID-19, over the past decade the ASEAN region has experienced outbreaks of human avian influenza, MERS, Zika and a range of other emerging infectious diseases.
“Our economic diversification activities have resulted in the movement of people and goods increasing dramatically in recent years, increasing the risk of importation of an emerging infectious disease. Increased agricultural activity means we now need to be more concerned about diseases of zoonotic origin.
“Linked to the human-animal interface, antimicrobial resistance is also a serious health security concern. Climate change is not only increasing the impact of natural disasters, it is changing the geographic reach of epidemic-prone diseases like the Zika virus,” she added.
Dr Hajah Anie Haryani continued: “What does this mean for us in ASEAN? It just means that we have to be even more prepared and use the available technologies at our disposal. It is therefore appropriate that the theme of this meeting is “Leveraging digital technology to strengthen field epidemiology”.
“The use of digital technology was integral to many of our responses to COVID-19. The unique challenges generated by the pandemic have created new needs and abruptly changed the motivation to use digital health.
“In many cases, digital health tools have gone from an attractive potential opportunity to an immediate necessity providing the impetus for very rapid development and adoption in practice.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that the FETN ASEAN+3 was established in 2011 following the outcomes of the 4th ASEAN+3 Health Ministers Meeting which expressed support for the continuation the development of networking among Field Epidemiology Training (FET) programs in ASEAN+3 countries to enhance vigilance, preparedness, capacity, communication and collaboration.
The ASEAN+3 FETN Steering Committee, made up of representatives from 13 countries, provides strategic oversight and guidance to ensure the network can achieve its goals of providing support to build FET capacity at the national level, facilitate cooperation and collaboration among members and functions as a platform for knowledge and experience sharing, training and regional capacity building.
The meeting discussed lessons learned from COVID-19 and how the region can learn from the evaluation and implementation of regional health cooperation to strengthen FET.
The theme of the meeting provides a platform for discussion on the field of public health practice.
In particular, countries will share best practices on their use of digital health technology in four main areas: communication and information; monitoring and surveillance; supporting the delivery of health services; and vaccination.
The technical agenda of the steering committee meeting is covered by discussions on the use of digital technology to strengthen field epidemiology at the 2nd ASEAN Digital Public Health (DPH) Conference, which is held in conjunction with the steering committee meeting and is hosted by the Ministry of Health and the Brunei Ministry of Health. Finance and economy.
The ASEAN+3 Steering Committee Meeting also includes an Indo-Pacific FETP Inter-Network Meeting between the ASEAN+3 FETN, Southeast Asia Field Epidemiology and Technology Network ( SAFETYNET) and the network of training programs in epidemiology and public health interventions (TEPHINET) .
The Joint Meeting of Indo-Pacific FETP Networks discussed the analysis of the landscape of Field Epidemiology Networks in the region, and identified needs, strengths, synergies and considered potential opportunities for alignment and collaboration.
The meeting was attended by delegates from ASEAN Member States, delegates from Plus Three countries (China, Japan and Korea), ASEAN Secretariat, FETN Coordination Office and ASEAN+3 FETN dialogue partners .