WHO Calls on Asia to Revamp Healthcare

TOKYO, Japan ~ The World Health Organisation (WHO) called this week for Asia to revamp medical care to tailor it to individual needs, saying health services were failing to satisfy patients despite rising spending.

Asia’s health system too often treats patients as a set of symptoms without assessing cultural, environmental and other factors, said Shigeru Omi, the UN health body’s Western Pacific regional director.

While the world spent US$4.1 trillion on health in 2004, 50 percent of people globally say they are dissatisfied with their medical care, he said.

“What I’m calling for is a concerted effort to put the heart back into medical practice,” Omi told a WHO conference in Tokyo.

“I sincerely believe that treating and caring for a sick person is not just a matter of curing his or her disease,” he said.

He said that a patient who remained psychologically well after heart bypass surgery had a greater survival rate than someone who suffered depression after undergoing an identical operation.

“Healthcare has reached a crucial turning point, and as we move further into the 21st century, I believe that we must reexamine our values and beliefs.”

He launched a book for WHO’s People at the Centre of Care Initiative, a policy framework aimed at reforming health services in Asia.

Omi, who took office in 1999, admitted he himself had been preoccupied with other concerns, such as the fight against tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS.

“However, overall progress in the Asia-Pacific region has created an environment in which it is now possible to address concerns about quality of care while we continue to tackle in earnest” other issues, he said.

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