WHO to help with Games contingency plan: Margaret Chan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2007, 12:00am

The World Health Organisation will help Beijing prepare for potential disease outbreaks and other health emergencies during next year's Olympic Games, WHO director general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said yesterday.

Dr Chan said in Beijing that officials had assured her they were aware of the need to prepare for potential health threats at mass gatherings such as the Games. 'The government needs to make preparations. So we are in discussion with them to provide technical assistance to support their efforts,' she said.

'They have already started all the measures, but we are happy to discuss emergency preparedness and responses with them.'

Dr Chan said she was reassured by officials of their commitment to a tobacco-free Olympics.

She was also shown an emergency response centre linked to 31 provinces to enable timely responses to medical crises.

'The government does understand and recognise the need to prepare for outbreaks among large gatherings,' she said.

'It's part of the commitment to host the Olympics.'

Dr Chan said chronic diseases had become new health threats to the mainland, with diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancer prevalent in affluent and developing countries alike.

She said governments ought to increase taxes on tobacco products and introduce other measures to discourage the public from smoking.

The mainland, home to a third of the world's smokers, should also be part of the effort.

Dr Chan also urged the mainland to design its own model for health-care reform.

She said Health Minister Chen Zhu had briefed her on how he would proceed with reforms to the health-care system.

Without giving details, she described the steps the mainland would take to reform its ailing health-care sector as 'very pragmatic'.

'My advice is: China needs to develop its own model. What works in other countries may not work in China because you know the sheer size of the population is a big challenge,' she said.

On bird flu, Dr Chan said the mainland had made progress, but warned that it should remain vigilant because the 'risk of pandemic influenza is still with us'.