Greater Mekong Sub-region Health Cooperation Strategy 2019–2023

10/12/2018 | 01:01 AM


On 10th December 2018, the Draft of Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Health Cooperation Strategy was adopted by GMS Working Group on Health Cooperation during its two-days meeting in Yangon, Myanmar.

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The Head of Viet Nam’s Delegation signed for endorsement of the Draft of GMS Health Cooperation Strategy, with the witness of ADB representative


On 10th December 2018, the Draft of Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Health Cooperation Strategy was adopted by GMS Working Group on Health Cooperation during its second annual meeting in Yangon, Myanmar.

Regional health cooperation is a priority under the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program. Efforts to enhance regional cooperation and integration, while fundamental to economic growth in the subregion, expose GMS countries to an evolving layer of health challenges.

Increased mobility and trade, including trade in agricultural and food products, facilitates cross-border movement of disease agents and their vectors. Greater intra-regional population movement brings risk of marginalisation of migrant and mobile persons and their exclusion from social protections, most critically access to essential health services. Growth in investment for transport infrastructure and border zone development, while central to GMS country’s efforts to diversify their economies and integrate with regional value chains, carries inherent risk of adverse public health impacts.

In parallel with these threats, regional integration creates opportunities to draw on the subregion’s health leadership, human resource skills and programming experience to address common health challenges.

Acknowledging the pivotal role of health cooperation to the GMS vision of an integrated, prosperous and equitable subregion, the 22nd GMS Ministerial Conference endorsed the creation of a new GMS Working Group on Health Cooperation (WGHC) and the development of a GMS Health Cooperation Strategy.

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Meeting of 2nd Greater Mekong Sub-region Working Group on Health Cooperation from 10 to 11 December 2018


The GMS Health Cooperation Strategy 2019­–2023 (the Strategy) provides a framework to guide the collective efforts of GMS countries in tackling health issues impacting the subregion. Regional cooperation will focus around three priority outcomes:

                      i.        Improved GMS health system performance in responding to public health threats.

                     ii.        Strengthened protection for vulnerable communities from the health impacts of regional integration.

                    iii.        Enhanced human resource capacity to respond to priority health issues in the GMS.

Three pillars, aligned with each outcome, form the strategic framework (Box 1). Programming areas under each pillar constitute the operational priorities of the Strategy and the basis for project development.

Strategic Pillar 1: Health security as a regional public good tackles the subregion’s vulnerability to acute public health events. Ensuring robust national health systems with capacity to prevent, detect and respond to transnational health threats is the cornerstone of health security. Strengthening mechanisms for multi-sector cooperation under a ‘One Health approach’ is a further building block, crucial for effective response to zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and food safety threats. Enhancing cross-border cooperation serves to maximise synergies between the health systems of GMS countries, consolidating health security as a regional public good that carries benefits for people across the subregion.

Strategic Pillar 2: Health impacts of connectivity and mobility responds to health challenges stemming from an increasingly interconnected GMS. Strengthening health systems in border areas where migrant and mobile populations pass and reside is an entry point for programming. Beyond border areas, extending access to essential health services to documented and undocumented migrants throughout the subregion is a priority focus as GMS countries strive to achieve universal health coverage. As investment in GMS urban and transport infrastructure increases, integrating health impact assessment during project planning and implementation will serve to mitigate the unintended health impacts of these developments.

Strategic Pillar 3: Health workforce development builds on the sub-region’s existing human resource capacity to address common health challenges. Establishing the GMS WGHC provides a platform for regional leadership and the stewardship of health cooperation initiatives. Strong leadership in turn opens opportunities for intra-regional capacity building, utilizing the subregions’ depth of health human resource and health programming experience to tackle shared health issues and enhance country efforts to attain Sustainable Development Goal targets.

Three themes - policy convergence, gender mainstreaming, and inclusive and equitable development - cut across each pillar. Health cooperation is enhanced by five enabling factors: (i) synergies between regional platforms and programs, (ii) stakeholder engagement, (iii) research and knowledge products, (iv) information and communications technology, and (v) cross-sector cooperation and coordination.

Implementation of GMS health cooperation will follow the institutional mechanism of the GMS Program. The newly convened GMS WGHC will lead Strategy implementation. A regional action plan, to be prepared by GMS WGHC core members, will detail output-based and time-bound actions towards agreed milestones under each strategic pillar. The achievements of health cooperation will be gauged through an operational results framework, developed in tandem with the regional action plan.

A product of extensive consultation with GMS partners backed by a robust situational analysis, the Strategy is intended as a tool to guide forward programming and mobilise new project financing towards realizing GMS health stakeholders’ vision of Health and wellbeing shared by all in an integrated, prosperous, and equitable sub-region.