COVID-19 and Public Health in the Asia Pacific

March 29, 2023 by

Location: Miller Center, Forum Room

Date: Apr 17, 2023 - Apr 17, 2023

Start Time: 4:00 pm

End Time: 5:30 pm

Event Link

Moderator: Margaret Foster Riley
Speakers: Chang-Chuan Chan and Syaru Shirley Lin

No country has been spared the effects of COVID-19, but its impact has not been felt equally. The resilience of health systems has played a critical role in national governments’ ability to minimize the loss of life and shock to the economy. Professor Chang-Chuan Chan, Distinguished Professor at the Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, and board member of the Center for Asia-Pacific Resilience and Innovation (CAPRI), will assess the impact of COVID-19 on public health in Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region. Prof. Chan will pay special consideration to the effects of China’s zero-COVID policy on the region. As the world moves beyond the pandemic phase, Prof. Chan will discuss the implications of liberalizing COVID-19 policies, especially in China, and what can be learned from the pandemic to ensure that we are better prepared for future health emergencies.

Health Systems in Asia Pacific
Health systems across the world have been stretched by the COVID-19 pandemic, even in the wealthiest economies. However, in low- and middle-income economies, where often health systems were already weak, the impact has been particularly devastating. As the epicenter of the pandemic, the Asia-Pacific region has not been spared from the effects of the virus. Some countries registered early successes, such as Taiwan’s ability to suppress viral transmission until Q2 2021, and the resulting relatively minimal impact on economic output, but ultimately, every country has been hit by the pandemic.

Prof. Chan will discuss the effects of COVID-19 policies in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, with particular consideration on the impact China’s policies have had on its neighbors. Strict restrictions closed supply chains, preventing access to critical medical supplies and giving rise to medical diplomacy. The subsequent rapid removal of restrictions unleashed a wave of infection that even the best prepared governments were unable to avert.

The Sustainability and Resilience of Health Systems in Asia Pacific
As part of its research agenda, CAPRI is leading the next phase of research for the Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience (PHSSR) to assess the sustainability and resilience of health systems in seven countries in the Asia Pacific. Prof. Lin of the Miller Center will introduce PHSSR, a partnership among the London School of Economics, World Economic Forum, AstraZeneca, Royal Philips, KPMG, the WHO Foundation, and CAPRI to drive cross-sectoral collaboration that can build more resilient and sustainable health systems. To support this goal, PHSSR provides tools and resources for research, a focal point for collaboration and knowledge exchange within and between countries, and a platform to disseminate and catalyze the adoption of breakthrough insights. PHSSR has so far conducted research in over 20 countries.

The next phase of PHSSR reports will focus on the Asia-Pacific experience during COVID-19, considering the extent to which the health systems of Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and three Pacific Island countries (the Marshall Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu), have weathered the pandemic. The findings and recommendations will support efforts to enhance future pandemic preparedness, highlighting the critical areas of focus for national governments and identifying common failures in the global health system.

In addition to the PHSSR project, upcoming research projects include the threat of misinformation and disinformation in vaccine uptake, both during and before the COVID-19 pandemic, and an investigation into the benefits of investing in mental health in the Asia-Pacific region.

Also in Attendance:

Professor Harry Harding, Faculty Senior Fellow, Miller Center

Professor Alicia García Herrero:
Prof. García Herrero is Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, Senior Fellow at Bruegel, Adjunct Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Advisor at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS). Active in international media and social media, Alicia was included in the TOP Voices in Economy and Finance by LinkedIn in 2017 and named #6 Top Social Media leader by Refinitiv in 2020.

Further Reading:
● A matter of trust: a qualitative comparison of the determinants of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Taiwan, the United States, the Netherlands, and Haiti.
● Governmental public health in Taiwan
● Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience

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