New regional director for WHO makes first visit to Samoa

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new regional director for the Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai made his first visit to Samoa this week since his appointment in February this year.

Dr Kasai is beginning a five year term as director to the Western Pacific region, and is touring Pacific Islands to get to know their needs, and meet with officials.

Here in Samoa, Dr Kasai took a deep dive into the merger of the Ministry of Health and National Health Service, and reaffirmed the issues Samoa wants support on: non-communicable diseases (NCDs), climate change and health, and health security.

“But also I was reminded that when we say Pacific, every country is so different. I have to approach differently by different country’s needs,” he said.

Of the issues he wants to address, the issue of NCD’s is already being tackled successfully by the wide rollout of the PEN Fa’aSamoa program (Package of Essential NCD interventions of the WHO).

Women’s Committees across the country have taken leadership on early detection of NCD’s and swift referral to treatment and lifestyle changes. Dr Kasai called the success of PEN Fa’aSamoa “the future of the region.”

“I have seen some kind of the future of this region already starting in this country, and I am looking forward to this being a model for the region,” he said.

Dr Kasai also took time to commend Samoa on merging the Ministry of Health with the National Health Services, saying it would improve service delivery and help hospitals adapt to today’s needs.

“In the past, majority of service required was more for infectious diseases, or single incidents,” Dr Kasai said.

“But now we need to follow up one individual to the end and that requires transformation in not only this country but all other countries in this region, and Samoa is really ahead of other countries in trying to create this new model.”

During his three day visit to Samoa, Dr Kasai visited Lufilufi Health Centre, Poutasi District Hospital and Saanapu Health Clinic, learned about PEN Fa’a Samoa, and met with the medical staff of Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.

He also met with Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the Minister of Health Tuitama Dr Talalelei Tuitama.and Associate Minister Salausa John Ah Ching, and CEO Leausa Toleafoa Dr. Take Naseri.

Dr Kasai is a physician and has worked with WHO for more than 15 years. Before his appointment he was the deputy regional director for Western Pacific, and earlier was a part of developing the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases and Public Health Emergencies for WHO member states.

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