The first day of the Meeting got off to a beautiful start with a fascinating performance of Vietnamese music and dance at the Hanoi Opera House. The IFMSA delegation will be singing “Welcome Vietnam” for a long time. The delegation then was presented with a documentary on the Vietnamese health system and the programming that they have implemented with the help of the WHO to expand universal access to healthcare throughout the country. They have made great strides in providing free healthcare to children under 6, to the elderly and the disadvantaged. The delegates also heard from the Vice President of Viet Nam Nguyen Thai Doan, the Vietnamese Minister of Health, the Regional Director for the Western Pacific Region Dr Shin Young-soo and the outgoing Chairperson. Both the Vice President and the Minister of Health spoke of the famous Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh and his belief that a healthy people means a healthy nation, and how Viet Nam has always seen health closely linked with development.
The afternoon session began with the election of the Minster of Health of Viet Nam, Associate Professor Dr Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, as the Chairperson for the meeting, and an address by the outgoing Chairperson from the 62nd session , Dr Adanan Yusof, Minister of Health, Brunei Darussalam. Dr Yusof noted the progress in the region, but implored the delegates to continue their work as the work is far from over. Unfortunately, the Director General, Dr Margaret Chan, is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly and is thus unable to make the WPRM, however a written statement was distributed to all the delegates detailing her commitment to achieving better health outcomes in the region. During the interventions, many congratulations and attention was given to the Australian delegation for the recent passing of the plain packaging laws for Tobacco Control that were upheld by the High Court. Many of the delegates were encouraged by Australia’s ability to fight such a big industry, and are hoping to replicate their work throughout the region. Rachael and I, both from AMSA-Australia were very excited to see the overwhelming support for a public health measure we hope will help to change the future of health outcomes.
After a very exciting first day, the delegates enjoyed a dinner hosted by the Government of Vietnam and were again treated to a beautiful Vietnamese cultural performance. We have been made to feel very welcome in our adopted home for the week and it will be difficult to leave it all behind.
Kelly and the IFMSA team to Western Pacific Regional Committee