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Regional Conference on Public Health in South East Asia in the 21st century, Calcutta, 22–24 November 1999

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    Public health is on the move in South East Asia. A recent conference organised by the South East Asian Regional Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in conjunction with various local partners, examined critically the recent contribution of public health in the region, and concluded that it was time to establish a new impetus with a new sense of direction—very much in keeping with the New Public Health thinking that has had such a marked influence in recent years in other parts of the world.  The conference, which was held in Calcutta from the 22 to 24 November 1999, resulted in the adoption of the Calcutta Declaration on Public Health.

    “calcutta declaration on public health”

    We, the participants at this Regional Conference on Public Health in South East Asia in the 21st Century, appreciate the substantial achievements in improving the health status of the people in the countries of the South East Asia region during the past decades. However, we enter the 21st Century with an unfinished agenda of existing health concerns, and new complex challenges that demand innovative solutions. We uphold the centrality of meeting the health needs of the community and our responsibility to preserve, protect and promote the health of the people. We commit ourselves to poverty alleviation, equity and social justice, gender equality and universal primary education as essential elements in the pursuit of Health for All. We recognise that public health expertise, capacity building and experience are essential for sustained partnerships to design, develop and provide health for the community and emphasise the importance of public health as a multi-disciplinary endeavour to meet those needs.

    We noted the progress in public health practice, education and training, and research in the countries of the South East Asia region; reviewed the lessons from public health related policies and programmes; and endorsed the following strategies and directions for enhancing health development in the South East Asia region in the 21st Century:

    1  Promote public health as an essential requirement for health development in the Region. In addition to addressing the challenges posed by ill health and promoting positive health, public health should also address issues related to poverty, equity, ethics, quality, social justice, environment, community development and globalisation.

    2  Recognise the leadership role of public health in formulating and implementing evidence-based healthy public policies; creating supportive environments; enhancing social responsibility by involving communities and increasing the allocations of human and financial resources.

    3  Strengthen public health by creating career structures at national, state, provincial and district levels and establishing policies to mandate competent background and relevant expertise for persons responsible for health of the population.

    4  Strengthen and reform public health education and training, and research, supported by networking of institutions and the use of information technology, for improving human resources development.

    We urge the countries and WHO to continue to provide the leadership and technical cooperation in building partnerships between government, UN and bilateral development agencies, academia, NGOs, private sector, media and other organs of civil society to jointly advocate and actively follow up on all aspects of this Calcutta Declaration on Public Health.