WORLD Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director Dr Takeshi Kasai arrives here today to meet with health leaders and to reinforce the organization’s commitment to supporting the government to improve the wellbeing of Solomon Islanders.
Dr Kasai is Director of the Western Pacific Region, which is home to more than one-quarter of the world’s population and encompasses 37 countries, including Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands became a member State of WHO in 1983.
Dr Kasai says he is looking forward learning more about the country’s health sector.
“The countries of the Pacific share many challenges – such as the impact of climate change on health, the high burden of non communicable diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, the need to improve preparedness for disasters and outbreaks, and the ‘unfinished business’ of infectious diseases such as malaria,” Dr Kasai said.
“However, each country also has specific health challenges that require tailored approaches,” he added.
“I am looking forward to my time in the Solomons – the more I understand the reality on the ground, the better I can lead WHO to support our Member States.”
The four-day visit is part of a strategic, long-term dialogue WHO is undertaking with countries in the region to tackle major health issues, such as malaria elimination, maternal-child health, and non communicable diseases (NCDs).
Progress in implementing the Role Delineation Policy – the national plan for delivering better health care closer to where people live – will also be discussed.
WHO Country Representative Dr Sevil Huseynova says the visit will also provide Dr Kasai with the opportunity to observe, first-hand, how primary health care is being delivered to communities.
“WHO’s role is to help countries translate global evidence into local health policies, strategies and programs. But many health innovations are developed in the field – by the community,” Dr Huseynova said.
“WHO also has a role to play in supporting countries like Solomon Islands to share their experiences and learn from each other’s innovations.”
Today Dr Kasai will attend a special youth event Youth Against NCDs, when Honiara’s youth groups will come together in creative “protest” to raise awareness of the need to prevent non communicable diseases (NCDs).
On Friday 29 November, Dr Kasai will also participate as a special guest speaker in a policy round table on mainstreaming gender equity in the health sector, chaired by the Health Permanent Secretary Polini McNeil.
Dr Kasai will also meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Minister of Health and Medical Services Dickson Mua.
A highlight of the visit will be a full-day field mission to visit Gizo Hospital and the Rarumana community, in Western province.
Dr Kasai will meet staff and tour the hospital, before travelling to Rarumana where he will learn about the provision of local health services, the integration of school health programs, and the community’s commitment to a “healthy village” approach.
Dr Takeshi Kasai began his term as WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific on 1 February 2019, following his nomination by the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific and his appointment by the WHO Executive Board.
The public health career of Dr Kasai began nearly 30 years ago when he was assigned to a remote post on the northeast coast of Japan, providing health-care services for the elderly.
His early experiences there impressed upon him value of building strong health systems from the ground up.
In the mid-1990s, Dr Kasai attended the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where he studied in the Department of Global Health and Development and received a master’s degree in public health.
Dr Kasai has worked for WHO for more than 15 years, and at the time of his nomination was Director of Programme Management, at the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines.
As a Technical Officer and later as the Director of the Division of Health Security at the Regional Office, he was instrumental in developing and implementing the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases and Public Health Emergencies, which guides Member States in preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.
Dr Kasai also served as the WHO Representative in Viet Nam from 2012 to 2014, and in 2014 received the For the People’s Health Medal from the Government, the top honor bestowed upon those who have made significant contributions to public health.