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Former U.S. Health Secretary calls for Taiwan's inclusion in WHA

2019/04/30 12:25:14

Taipei, April 30 (CNA) Former U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price on Tuesday called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to invite Taiwan to its annual World Health Assembly (WHA), saying that the world needs Taiwan's expertise to fulfill the WHO's goal of health for all.

"The world cannot succeed in improving the health of all unless all are able to participate in their strategic development for solutions and their implementation," Price said in his opening remarks at a workshop on tuberculosis (TB) co-organized by Taiwan, the United States and Japan.

Price, who headed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from February to September 2017, said he expressed U.S. support for Taiwan's participation in the WHA during his address at the WHA in 2017, and still felt the same way today.

Price said Taiwan, located strategically in the Indo-Pacific region, has a particularly high need for disease prevention.

Due to the "prioritization of political considerations over professional ones," however, Taiwan has been excluded from full participation in the WHO assembly, technical meetings and activities, for years, he said, referring to pressure from Beijing.

Such exclusion runs against the WHO's constitution that says the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, he said.

The former U.S. official reiterated Washington's full support for Taiwan's participation in global public health organizations such as the WHO, "and it is my stance that we continue to support its participation as an observer at the WHA and its technical meetings."

The WHO can benefit from Taiwan's expertise and experience in emergency response medicine, its well-functioning national health insurance system, and its high-level medical professional training, Price said.

Taiwan participated in the WHA as an observer under the name Chinese Taipei from 2009 to 2016 amid better relations with China during the then Kuomintang administration, which prioritized reducing tensions and building friendly ties with Beijing.

Since 2017, however, China has persuaded the WHO not to invite Taiwan, in line with Beijing's hardline stance on cross-Taiwan Strait relations after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.

Price was speaking at the opening ceremony of Taiwan-U.S. Global Cooperation Training Framework (GCTF) workshop on TB prevention.

The GCTF workshop, titled "International Workshop on the Programmatic Management of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB)," is being attended by 15 TB experts from eight countries in the Indo-Pacific region -- Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to Taiwan's Ministry of Health and Welfare, Taiwan established the Taiwan multiple DR-TB Consortium (TMTC) in 2007 to strengthen the management of DR-TB.

The TMTC offers free diagnosis and tailored treatment, and has increased the treatment success rate to above 80 percent in Taiwan, making Taiwan a model for TB prevention and control in the region, according to the ministry.

Established in June 2015, the GCTF is designed to support bilateral cooperation in international public health, humanitarian assistance and other global issues in the Indo-Pacific region.

Price, who arrived Taiwan with his wife on April 28, is scheduled to wrap up his stay in the country on Friday.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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