May 22, 2014


Department of Foreign Affairs:

21 May 2014 - Philippine Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona addressed the 67th World Health Assembly at the Palais des Nations in Geneva Switzerland yesterday, 20 May 2014. 

With climate change and health at the heart of the Assembly’s Debate, Secretary Ona emphasized that “the link between climate and health couldn’t be as relevant, especially to the Philippines, as today.”

Secretary Ona shared to the 194 member delegation of international health leaders and policy members the Philippine experience in Typhoon Haiyan – the strongest typhoon to make landfall in recorded history.  The typhoon brought widescale destruction which prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to categorize the needed response a Grade 3, the highest internal emergency category.

“There were lessons learned and experiences are carefully studied as the country reviews its existing policies and programs,” the Health Secretary said.  His speech drove in the point the important principle of “building back better” in the reconstruction of health structures to make the health system more resilient, more responsive, more adaptable and effective in responding to the effects of climate change  as well as mitigating their impact to the public.

Climate change has resulted to observable effects to weather and environment that has a direct co-relation to public health.  Many prevalent human infections, including malaria, dengue fever, and cholera, are climate sensitive and hence may increase in their incidences should temperatures rise.

The spread of so-called waterborne infections which most often cause diarrheal illness flourish in the wake of heavy rainfalls due to water contamination. Moreover, many pathogens that cause diarrheal disease reproduce more quickly in warmer conditions.

“In this modern age, CLIMATE is recognized as an important determinant for health,” Secretary Ona stressed. In response, the Philippines initiated the development and implementation of the national policy for health action on adaption to climate change, strengthened public health systems including disease surveillance and monitoring, enhanced disaster preparedness and health action in emergencies, and enhanced awareness of the population on climate change. 


“Health is one of the most visible dimensions of climate change,” according to Secretary Ona.  The Health Leader called on the Assembly for a “united front against the health impacts of climate change to achieve universal health care for our people.”

In fact, in the Philippines 45 million poor and near poor Filipinos are already covered by the national health insurance.

The World Health Assembly is an annual gathering of health ministers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), health professionals and policy makers to discuss and make decisions on key global health issues.  This year, more than 3,000 delegates are attending the Assembly which runs from 19 to 24 May 2014. END