Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 24 Feb 2023

Chinese crowd this week

Welcome to Medical Channel Asia’s regular segment, the weekly Asian medical news bulletin. Each week, we will bring you essential medical news from within the region.

This week, we will look at teenage pregnancy in the Philippines, the Marburg virus and more.


The Philippines is tackling its teenage pregnancy crisis this week, which poses significant risks to the country’s economic growth and labour force, according to experts from the World Health Organization and the United Nations. One in 10 births in the country is from mothers under 19 years old, with a foregone income loss due to this crisis of $1.6 billion per year. The problem is especially severe in Samar and Southern Leyte, two of the country’s poorest provinces. To address the issue, the Philippine Health Department, WHO, UN, and Korea International Cooperation Agency have launched a $1-million program targeting 275,538 adolescents and will train 150 health service providers, 150 public school teachers, and 360 local government units in 20 towns in these provinces.


Singapore’s Healthier SG preventive care strategy is set to roll out in mid-2023. To prepare, the National Healthcare Group, Singapore Health Services, and the National University Health System are preparing for the shift to primary and community care.

To support the program, the groups are offering GP training in team-based approaches. They are also expanding community nurse and coordinator teams. Healthier SG aims to empower people to take control of their health and prevent disease by shifting the focus from acute hospitals to the community. Those 60 and older are invited to enrol with a GP to oversee their healthcare.


Thailand’s Department of Disease Control is monitoring the deadly Marburg virus. The virus is similar to Ebola and spreads in central Africa. Health centres throughout Thailand have been put on alert. The virus can spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces. Fatality rates are high and there is no specific treatment or vaccine available. All travellers from countries with cases of the virus will be screened upon arrival. So far, no cases have been reported in Thailand.


The Malaysian Ministry of Health cannot prevent medical staff, including medical officers and specialists, from leaving the public health service to work abroad, according to Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni. However, the deputy minister defended the amount paid to medical staff by the ministry. He stated that medical officers and dental officers receive a salary that is higher than other civil servants working at management levels. Lukanisman also spoke about the ministry’s time-based promotion system and postgraduate medical speciality programmes. An upcoming town hall session between Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa and government doctors is also being held to address concerns. We have previously reported that Malaysia is currently facing a hospital overcrowding crisis in a previous weekly news bulletin.


Vietnam announced this week it has extended the validity of existing marketing authorisations of pharmaceutical products until 2024. This allows EU exporters to avoid having to go through complex procedures for the renewal of their marketing authorisation. The extension of marketing authorisations will benefit both EU operators and consumers in Vietnam by facilitating access to high-quality pharmaceuticals. The extension comes after extensive constructive engagement with Vietnamese authorities. It follows decisions last October ending discrimination among EU regulatory authorities for pharmaceutical products. The EU exported EUR 2.47 billion of pharmaceutical products to Vietnam between January and October 2022. 24% of all EU exports to Vietnam during that period are pharmaceutical products.


Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has stated that he plans to meet with the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in May. He plans to discuss changing the status of COVID-19 in Indonesia from pandemic to endemic. He added that his ministry has already discussed the matter with officials of the WHO. The WHO is letting each country decide on the change. However, the WHO has issued a note regarding the need to align the plan with other countries that are also planning to impose the endemic status.

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