World Health Summit Regional Meeting at Monash University Tackles Health Challenges in Asia-Pacific

The World Health Summit Regional Meeting 2024, hosted by Monash University, took place in Melbourne from April 22-24 under the theme ‘Shape the Future of Health Across Asia and the Pacific’. This landmark event set a new record, attracting over 1,250 delegates from more than 40 nations. Over 200 speakers delivered 40-plus sessions focused on identifying strategies to improve global health and address health inequities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Monash University was pleased to organize this world-class event, which was organized around major topics that are essential to the university’s Impact 2030 strategy: Thriving Communities and Health – Priorities for living well and living well together, Climate Change and Health – Priorities for responding to the climate emergency and Geopolitics and Health – Priorities for safety, equity, and justice across borders.

The World Health Organization’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, set the tone early with their opening remarks. Both underlined how crucial regional meetings are to promoting thought-provoking conversations about health in the Asia-Pacific area. Indigenous health, enduring health disparities, and enhancing regional ability to tackle common health risks including climate change effects were among the main subjects discussed.

Co-President of the WHS Regional Meeting, Professor Sophia Zoungas, Head of the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, highlighted the success of the event and said “We had some of the most significant players in global health in Melbourne for three days, fully focused on developing ways to tackle health inequity both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”

She further added, “We’ve elevated global and planetary health as issues for all who work in health care. Whether you’re involved in community engagement, acute care, health policy, or international development and diplomacy, our work is all intrinsically linked, and we have much to learn from one another. The meeting fostered a new resolve to break down silos and work collaboratively.”

Prominent leaders participating in the event included Dr. Saia Ma’u Piukala, newly appointed Regional Director for the WHO Western Pacific Office, Dr. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity.

The regional meeting occurred amid mounting worries about the capacity of WHO member nations to agree on a better global health governance and collaboration framework, especially in light of the upcoming discussions for a pandemic pact. Despite these difficulties, the Melbourne gathering was distinguished by exceptional respect, collegiality, a common goal, and a dedication to group learning and action to enhance health across the region.

Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, with social media abuzz with thoughtful reflections and summaries from participants. These reflections underscore the significance of the Regional Meeting in fostering dialogue and collaboration. Monash University is now focused on formally disseminating and translating the meeting’s outcomes into actionable impact.