The Lao health sector needs to continue to address basic water, sanitation and waste management issues in healthcare facilities, schools and rural and remote communities.
Minister of Health Associate Professor Dr Bounkong addressed the issue last week at the Regional Forum on Environment and Health in Manila, the Philippines.
He raised concerns on new environmental health challenges that are related to the increased use of pesticides, chemicals in agriculture and manufacturing/or industry, and occupational risk factors that result due to the industrialisation process, and mining, construction and building material industries.
Dr Bounkong said the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda for air quality, chemicals, water, sanitation, safe urban settlement and tackling climate changes (SDGs 3.9, 6, 11, and 13) provide an opportunity for the health and non-health sectors to promote clean air, safe water, healthy living, and the learning and working environment for communities especially for women and children in Laos.
“This directly addresses the new environmental health challenges and contributes to the health target SDG 3 that is linked to maternal and child health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, and neglected tropical diseases in the country,” he said.
The forum sought to strengthen the cooperation of the ministries responsible for environment and health within countries and across the region by providing a mechanism to share knowledge and experiences, improve policy and regulatory frameworks at the national and regional level, and to promote the implementation of integrated environmental health strategies and regulations.
The forum also discussed ways to effectively deal with the environmental health problems within countries and among themselves by increasing the capacity of Southeast and East Asian countries on environmental health management.
One in four deaths in this region is attributed to environmental risks, which include unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and lack of appropriate waste management. Other emerging threats include air pollution, exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals, climate change and poor occupational conditions.
In a 2014 report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Air pollution is estimated to cause 16 percent of lung cancer deaths, 11 percent of deaths due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than 20 percent of ischaemic heart disease and stroke.
Other environmental chemicals, such as persistent organic pollutants, are linked to the increase in Type 2 diabetes. An estimated 41 percent of deaths in the world are due to indoor and outdoor air pollution.
Many of these environmental health risks have been linked to economic development, rapid and unplanned urbanisation and industrialisation. Most governments will now have to address these threats to health that require close collaboration between health and environment ministries and policy measures involving other sectors (such as transport, energy, housing, agriculture and trade).
The regional forum provides a venue for high- level officials and ministers of health and environment from Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam to address long-standing and emerging environmental health issues.
WHO regional offices for South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, together with the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia Pacific organise the regional forum every three years.
Source: Vientiane Times