In an effort to enhance trade and cooperation with other countries in the region and reduce dependency on mainland China, in 2016 Taiwan’s government introduced the New Southbound Policy (NSP). The policy has been designed to leverage educational, technological, and economic assets to enhance Taiwan’s regional integration and increased medical diplomacy has become one of the initiative’s key pillars.
By building a world-class social insurance system, Taiwan has established itself as a regional frontrunner in healthcare. Indeed, in 2018, Bloomberg ranked Taiwan ninth in terms of healthcare efficiency out of 56 global economies indexed. Now, the government hopes to inspire and support other countries in cultivating enhanced healthcare. Thus far, the launch of a “One Country, One Center” (1C1C) initiative “commissions seven medical centres in Taiwan to deepen our collaboration in the areas of public health and medicine with target countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, and the Philippines,” explains Shih-Chung Chen, minister of health and welfare.
We have extended [our mosquito-borne] disease prevention network to other Asian countries – an initiative which has been quite successful and important for regional diseases prevention efforts
Taiwan shares with other Asian countries the challenge of preventing and countering mosquito-borne diseases and has managed to build a remarkable prevention and management system for life-threatening infectious diseases such as Ebola and dengue. “Taiwan established a national research centre on mosquito-borne diseases and we have successfully controlled the spread of mosquitoes with the application of IT drones and big data analysis,” asserts Chen. “We have extended this disease prevention network to other Asian countries – an initiative which has been quite successful and important for regional diseases prevention efforts,” he continues.
While such initiatives have been a positive start to Taiwan’s involvement in health discussions, Chen believes there is still one critical factor missing. “The best way that Taiwan can participate in meeting global health challenges is through the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization,” argues Chen. However, Taiwan has been unable to attend the WHA as an observer since 2017. Regardless of this hurdle, the minister remains committed to ensuring future participation and insists that the island is “more than willing to share its achievements and its experiences with the rest of the world and participation in the WHA is the most effective way to do so.”
Despite the political challenges facing the island, Taiwan hopes to continue finding ways to contribute to the international health community. “In cooperation with our diplomatic allies, Taiwan builds health centres and dispatches mobile medical missions to countries that need them. For those whom we do not have official ties, we still launch many collaborative projects to help prevent diseases and improve wellbeing by sharing our experiences…Our government will go on creating a positive cycle to influence more countries in innovative health,” insists Chen.