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China willing to cooperate globally on future pandemic responses

By WANG XIAOYU | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-30 09:27
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This photo taken on May 21, 2023 shows a logo of the World Health Organization with the WHO headquarters in the background in Geneva, Switzerland. [Photo/Xinhua]

China is willing to promote global cooperation in boosting capabilities in responding to future pandemics and tackling antimicrobial resistance, health officials said during the 76th World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland.

"The Chinese government is willing to offer necessary support, including personnel, technologies and funds, to help the World Health Organization cope with international public health emergencies," said Hu Guang, an official with the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control, and a member of the Chinese delegation attending the event.

The WHO is expected to coordinate strengthened efforts from developed countries to provide assistance to developing countries, such as enhancing personnel training, technology transfer and medical aid to step up developing economies' capacities in handling pandemics and manufacturing relevant materials, Hu said during an interview with Health Times, a newspaper administered by the National Health Commission, China's top health authority.

The assembly, which runs from May 21 to 30 this year, is an annual event led by the WHO.

With negotiations for drafting a global pandemic treaty underway during the assembly, Hu said the new accord should focus on the practical needs of developing countries and reflect the principles of fairness, solidarity, consensus and inclusiveness.

China supported establishing a WHO Pathogen Access and Benefit Sharing System and hoped that treaties in the pipeline could prioritize the protection of the interests of countries that supply samples and dedicate more resources to developing vaccines and other products to rein in pandemics.

Li Dachuan, deputy director of the commission's medical administration, said during a meeting of the assembly that China's use of antibiotics has improved continuously over the years and it has achieved progress in developing new drugs to combat infections.

The WHO has stated that without immediate action to curb antimicrobial resistance, the number of related deaths will likely spike, incurring hefty public health burdens and plunging many people into poverty, especially those in low-income countries.

Li called for ramping up global cooperation and communication in this aspect. "China is willing to fully cooperate with other countries in devising control strategies, drafting technical guidelines, formulating monitoring systems and developing new drugs and technologies, and joining efforts to cope with challenges brought by antimicrobial resistance," he said.

During the assembly, Chinese health officials shared their experiences in preventing and controlling noninfectious diseases and achieving domestic universal health coverage.

Guo Yanhong, director of the commission's medical emergency response department, said that the rate of premature deaths from major chronic illnesses in China had dropped from 18.5 percent in 2015 to 15.3 percent in 2021 thanks to comprehensive efforts, such as rolling out early diagnosis and treatment programs for cancer and screening high-risk groups for severe lung diseases.

"Countries with sufficient resources are suggested to devote efforts to rein in risk factors associated with noninfectious diseases such as tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets and lack of exercise," she said. "China is willing to provide targeted advice for less-developed countries and regions."

Zhuang Ning, deputy director of the commission's healthcare reform department, said that 90 percent of urban and rural families in China can reach the nearest medical facility within 15 minutes and government expenditures on healthcare had risen from 843 billion yuan ($119 billion) in 2012 to 2.07 trillion yuan in 2021.

More efforts are being made to deploy digital technologies to bring high-quality healthcare services to poor counties and rural clinics, Zhuang said.

"It takes time to expand medical capacity. We suggest using innovative tools, such as digital technologies to boost access to medical services," he said.

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