Working for Better Health in the Western Pacific

Working for Better Health in the Western Pacific

Everyone depends on good health. We need to be healthy to learn, work, and care for our families. But, many people today face health challenges, most of which could be prevented.

While health outcomes have improved for people living in the Western Pacific in recent decades, serious challenge remain. More than 30 000 people die each day due to preventable chronic diseases. In many countries, childbirth remains a danger to both mother and child, and more than 4 million babies die each year before they reach 1 month. Established and emerging infectious diseases from tuberculosis to Zika virus disease pose real threats.

That’s why the WHO in the Western Pacific is needed. Working with 37 countries and areas, in 15 country offices, our staff are uniquely placed to deal with this array of modern public health challenges facing nearly 1.9 billion people in the Region.


Building health systems for all

When you are poor, the illness of one family member can bring financial disaster to your entire household. Even those more affluent can face financial ruin due to complicated or long-term illnesses.

Every year, 80 million people in the Western Pacific Region face financial hardship due to out-of-pocket payments for health services. This threatens individuals and families, as well as communities and economies.

We support the efforts of every country to provide lifelong, affordablehealth care for all. Universal health coverage (UHC) depends on strong and well-managed health systems available to everyone – even the most disadvantaged. UHC covers all aspects of health services, from cradle to grave. 

In partnership with Member States, we developed Universal Health Coverage: Moving Towards Better Health, an action framework focused on strengthening health services while ensuring individuals, families and communities at the centre of all efforts.

Through policy development, health sector reform, and ensuring hospital and health centres have strong human resources, financing and information systems, we are working with countries to achieve the ambitious aim of Health for All in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


80 million people

In the Western Pacific face financial hardship

WHO/Yoshi Shimizu
© Credits

Fighting communicable diseases

Communicable, or infectious,  diseases have been the major cause of illness and death throughout history. Cholera, malaria, measles, pneumonia, smallpox and tuberculosis have been feared for centuries. 

In the last 100 years or so we have begun to understand the causes of these and other diseases and have been able to prevent or treat them with antibiotics, vaccinations and other tools.

Fighting communicable diseases remains a major priority for WHO and its Member States – a long-term effort leading to healthier and longer lives. Malaria cases have decreased 25% between 2002 and 2012, and deaths have fallen by 80% in the Western Pacific. 

The incidence of tuberculosis has been cut by more than half since 1990, and deaths have been slashed by 73%. The Western Pacific Region has been certified as polio-free since 2000.

Many risks remain, and diseases can and do return quickly if control efforts are not sustained. Dengue, HIV, SARS and Zika are reminders that infectious diseases will continue to emerge and re-emerge. The battle against communicable diseases is crucial to well-being, and we are fully engaged in the fight.


1 500 lives

Viral hepatitis is a significant public health threat in the Western Pacific, leading to liver disease and even liver cancer and death. The disease claims 1500 lives every day in the Region.

WHO/Yoshi Shimizu
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Noncommunicable diseases in the modern world

Environmental threats and modern lifestyles pose real challenges to health, safety, and physical and mental well-being. Climate change, rapid and unplanned urbanization, and unsafe roads, homes, communities, schools and workplaces all impact health. 

Additionally, easy access to and pervasive marketing of alcohol, tobacco, and calorie-rich but nutrient-poor food and drinks lead to lead to obesity. All of these factors increase vulnerability to heart attacks and strokes, diabetes, chronic respiratory ailments and other diseases. 

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are now responsible for 4 out of 5 deaths in the Western Pacific Region, and depression is now the leading contributor to disability worldwide.  

We are supporting countries in scaling up whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to mitigate the health impacts of negative behavioural, cultural, environmental and social influences. 

Health promotion, advocacy for policy and legislation, and community education and empowerment help ensure that the places in which we live, work, learn and play are healthy.


50 000 young lives

A few simple steps taken immediately after birth can save more than 50 000 young lives each year in the Region.

A speedy response to outbreaks and emergencies

When the world faces complex health security threats from disease outbreaks, natural disasters and conflicts, we are there to help. In the Western Pacific, these health security threats occur regularly, often in unpredictable ways that challenge even the most advanced health systems.

Our approach to outbreaks and emergencies recently underwent historic change with the establishment of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, which added on-the-ground response capacity to the Organization’s traditional technical and standard-setting roles. 

For over a decade, the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases served as effective guidance for Member States to meet the capacity requirements mandated under the International Health Regulations. 

An updated strategy, the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases and Public Health Emergencies, continues to guide Member States in further strengthening their fundamental systems for health security, including through developing and implementing national action plans. 

Our Emergency Operations Centre WHO in the Western Pacific is at the heart of health emergency management in the Region. It connects expertise, information, stakeholders and all levels of WHO to ensure effective preparedness and a coordinated timely response in emergencies.


Being ready

Preparing for the next pandemic – wherever it emerges from – is a top priority for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

Tailored support for the Pacific

The Pacific island countries and areas are diverse in culture and language, but they share many health challenges.  

Rates of premature death from noncommunicable diseases are among the world’s highest. Communicable diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis continue to be a major health burden, and persistent tropical diseases such as lymphatic filariasis and yaws persist. 

Low-lying islands are vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels. Unsafe drinking-water and inadequate sanitation can trigger outbreaks of dengue and typhoid. Natural disasters ravage communities and local economies.

The Healthy Islands vision envisions a region where “children are nurtured in body and mind, environments invite learning and leisure, people work and age with dignity, ecological balance is a source of pride and the ocean which sustains us is protected”. 

Through our Division of Pacific Technical Support, established in 2010 in Fiji, we have increased immunization, promoted healthy living in schools and communities, and strengthened health care to assist with the NCD crisis. 

Today, the health sector is also better prepared to deal with public health emergencies and the impact of climate change.


16 000 health workers

WHO supports the Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN), online learning brings health education to more than 16 000 health workers in the Pacific every year.

WHO/Yoshi Shimizu
© Credits

Health at the heart of the global development agenda

For 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a driving force in addressing many issues affecting the health of people all over the world. 

Despite significant strides towards achievement of the goals, progress was uneven and further efforts were needed to eradicate fully a wide range of diseases and address a variety of persistent and emerging health issues.

In September 2015, world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York to adopt the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the MDGs focused on poor countries, the SDGs focus on poor people in every country. 

Health is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs, which aim to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure the prosperity and well-being of all. Although SDG 3 specifically targets good health and well-being, health is integral to all goals – and all goals are influenced by health.

In order to achieve the SDGs by 2030, everyone has a role to play: governments, the private  sector, civil society, organizations such as WHO, and people like you.



Ensures healthy lives and promotes wellbeing for all at all ages.

Working for Better Health in the Western Pacific

WHO in the Western Pacific Region is guided by an unwavering principle – keep countries at the centre of everything we do. Our support is people centred and country oriented, so that it is useful to our primary partners – our Member States.