MANILA, 10 October 2011- The World Health Organization (WHO) will undertake a comprehensive global reform plan to ensure the Organization stays aligned with its mission and keeps pace with evolving global health needs.

The programme of reform will cover WHO's technical work and the way work is managed,
Dr Shin told the Regional Committee, WHO's governing body in the Region. The meeting, on 10 to 14 October, is reviewing WHO's work in the Region.

The new regional reform specifically targets enhancing WHO's performance at country level by focusing on what countries need and how those needs can be addressed in the most effective and efficient manner.

"It means supporting our Member States and partners to better understand the health problems faced in their country, particularly for those people living in the margins of society," Dr Shin said. "It means being able to provide advice on interventions in a way that can easily be transformed in robust national policies and plans."

The Western Pacific Region has made progress in the health arena. Nine out of the ten malaria affected countries in our Region have now formulated national elimination plans, Dr Shin told the Regional Committee. "Prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS has improved in most parts of our Region. And tuberculosis control programmes have been strengthened across the Region," he said.

The Regional Director reported that improvements in maternal health are still far from satisfactory, attributing this to weak health systems, the lack of well-trained community health workers and the low position that women occupy in society in many parts of the Region, leaving them with little or no voice.

High on the agenda of the Regional Committee is the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which are responsible for four out of five deaths in the Region. Top on the list are heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases.

With NCDs significantly higher on the global political agenda, Dr Shin said, "We now need to turn political recognition into concrete action. This is particularly so in low-resource settings, where the impact of this rising tide of NCDs is felt the hardest."

The Regional Director's report touched on the natural disasters that have resulted in many deaths, injuries and damage to property, such as the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the devastating triple emergency-earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster-in Japan, which demonstrated the importance of preparedness and the need for an integrated approach to disaster management.

Dr Shin said that despite the Western Pacific Region being polio-free for more than a decade, the outbreak in China is a powerful reminder that until the world is polio-free, all countries remain vulnerable. "We must maintain high vaccination coverage rates throughout our Region and must continue to support endemic countries in neighbouring regions to eradicate polio as soon as possible," he said.

In all these areas, from tackling neglected diseases-such as yaws, leprosy and lymphatic filariasis-to fighting dengue, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, significant progress can be made by reaching out and working in greater partnership with others, Dr Shin said.