FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 14, 2008
Contact: HHS Press Office
HHS Secretary Leavitt Visits Southeast Asia to Advance Product Safety and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Efforts
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt is visiting Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam to advance the administration’s efforts to improve the safety of imports, and to review cooperative efforts to reduce the spread of disease, including HIV/AIDS and highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Secretary Leavitt will meet with senior government officials and business leaders, and visit sites related to product safety, and the research, care and treatment of infectious diseases.
“By working together, we can improve the safety of food and other products and build a common defense against disease,” Secretary Leavitt said. “I am excited by the opportunity to work with my counterparts in Southeast Asia to work against disease, notably influenza and HIV/AIDS, and to improve the quality of products for our people.”
In November, 2007, as chair of the President’s Interagency Working Group on Import Safety, Secretary Leavitt presented the President with the group’s Import Safety Action Plan. The plan contains short- and long-term recommendations for continuing to improve the safety of imports entering the United States. The group’s plan works in harmony with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Protection Plan.
Among the recommendations of the Import Safety Action Plan:
- Developing arrangements with counterparts in other governments to facilitate the exchange of information, such as import and recall data;
- Increasing training for foreign inspection agencies to help other governments ensure the safety of products;
- Increasing the U.S. presence abroad in these activities; and
- Working with other governments and manufacturers to help to ensure compliance with U.S. safety standards.
The Secretary is also interested in learning about steps taken in the three countries to help reduce the spread of avian influenza and other infectious diseases. The United States has identified Indonesia and Vietnam as priority countries for pandemic influenza preparedness and response, and has provided funding and expertise for these efforts. The United States also assists in combating HIV/AIDS through such programs as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Vietnam is one of the 15 focus countries of the Emergency Plan.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, the Secretary will visit with Indonesian officials to discuss cooperation in combating disease.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the Secretary’s visit will include meetings with government and business leaders, a tour of the Port of Saigon, and visits to fish-processing and poultry-raising areas in the countryside.
In Singapore, the Secretary will visit the Regional Emerging Diseases Intervention Center, known as the REDI Center, jointly sponsored by the governments of Singapore and the United States. The center grew out of a 2003 meeting between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore. The two leaders resolved that both countries should explore prospects for collaborative efforts to understand new health threats that put the world community at risk, including tropical diseases and potential bioterrorism agents. The Secretary will also tour the Biopolis, a multidisciplinary, public-private campus focused on the life sciences, and will meet with business executives from the health-care, pharmaceutical and medical-device sectors.
HHS and other federal departments and agencies have a history of collaboration on health with the governments and public and private organizations in Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam to address crucial health issues. HHS’ assistance to the region has included research, staff support, direct funding, and training in vaccine technology.
For more information, visit www.hhs.gov.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: April 15, 2008