The University of the Philippines (UP), together with the ASEAN University Network (AUN), co-hosted the AUN’s 2nd International Health Promotion Conference, with the theme, “Moving towards Healthy Universities in Asia”, on August 20-21 at the Novotel Manila, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines.
With the aim of enhancing the development of health-promoting universities and the implementation of programs based on the “Healthy Universities Framework”, the conference culminated with the signing of the “Manila Declaration: Universities as Centers of Health and Wellness”, a vital and historic output of the conference, on August 21.
The AUN-Health Promotion Network (AUN-HPN), a thematic network of the AUN, primarily aims to “create a platform for ASEAN higher education institutions for collaboration and networking among themselves and with other key stakeholders in order to enhance the health promotion efforts in the region”.
Welcome messages were delivered by: UP President Danilo L. Concepcion, represented by UP Executive Vice President Teodoro Herbosa; AUN Executive Director Choltis Dhirathiti; Mahidol University (Thailand) Vice President Nopraenue Sajjarax Dhirathiti; and, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd – Philippines) Chair J. Prospero de Vera III at the opening ceremony on August 20.
Secretary of Health (Philippines) Francisco Duque III, delivered his keynote message on “Challenges and Opportunities in Promoting Health through Healthy Universities” based on the experiences and accomplishments of the Department of Health and the Universal Health Care law.
Plenary and parallel discussion sessions were held, covering a broad range of topics on health-related research, programs, policymaking, institution and country-based experiences, best practices, and networking initiatives in health promotion; as well as addressing prevailing issues, such as mental health, non-communicable diseases, and others. There were a total of 48 poster presentations, 57 parallel oral presentations, and 10 plenary presentations by expert resource persons.
Health promotion in universities in Asia
Coordinator for Formation and Ethics Guia Tan, Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines); and AUN-HPN Executive Director Wiwat Rojanapithayakorn discussed health promotion in Asian universities.
Mahidol University (Thailand) Vice President for International Relations and Corporate Communication Nopraenue Sajjarax Dhirathiti, Dr. Manuel M. Dayrit, former dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, and former Secretary of Health (Philippines), and Chancellor Carmencita D. Padilla of UP Manila shared lessons and insights on teaching and learning health promotion.
The UP Dance Sport Society, Ateneo de Manila College Glee Club, and De La Salle Innersoul student groups performed special numbers at the welcome dinner.
Translating research to policy
The second day of the conference, August 21, marked the signing of the “Manila Declaration: Universities as Centers of Health and Wellness” and the continuation of the plenary and parallel session discussions.
Professor Hiroyasu Iso of the Department of Social Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Osaka University (Japan), Vice Director Daisaku Nakatani of the Center for Global Health, Osaka University (Japan), and Dr. Orratai Waleewong, researcher in the International Health Policy Program (IHPP), Ministry of Public Health (Thailand), at the plenary presented key lessons and experiences on translating health promotion research to policy.
Global health promotion initiatives for universities
Health Promotion Technical Officer Riita-Maija Hämäläinen of the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office, Senior Health Specialist Gerard Servais of the Asian Development Bank, Dr. Supaporn Sudnongbua of the Faculty of Public Health, Naresuan University, Thailand, and Dr. Mark Dooris, Chair of the United Kingdom Healthy Universities, and Professor of Health and Sustainability, and Director of Healthy and Sustainable Settings Unit, University of Central Lancashire, England, discussed specific health promotion programs and global initiatives focusing on universities.
Signing of the “Manila Declaration”
The “Manila Declaration for Healthy Universities” focuses on the role of universities as centers of health and wellness, in addition to their being centers of learning, research, and service. “Universities can also serve as hubs for health promotion, health literacy and culture, adoption of healthy lifestyles, and creation of safe and healthy teaching and learning environments,” the Declaration states.
The Declaration identifies globalization, changes in human behaviors and relationships, and impact on natural and social environments as factors “resulting in the rise of non-communicable, lifestyle and chronic diseases, injuries, mental health issues”, spread of diseases, and other challenges. With the AUN-HPN and the Healthy Universities Framework it formulates “to address these concerns early in our society’s youth”, member universities are primarily called upon to support and implement the said Framework “to contribute to human development and healthy societies of the future”.
The Declaration also emphasizes that addressing global health challenges calls for “the development of innovative approaches, methods and technologies” and “requires the collaboration, coordination, and collective actions of State and non-state actors, parties, and organizations”.
“As social, behavioral and natural scientists, health professionals, researchers, administrators, students and staff, we recognize and commit to our task and obligation of creating nurturing, healthy and safe universities and environments necessary for the promotion of the health and wellness of our constituents and the general population,” the Declaration states.
More than 300 participants attended the conference, comprised of experts, researchers, academics, students, and officials of government agencies and non-governmental organizations who are working on health promotion. They came from 12 countries, namely: Brunei (University of Brunei Darussalam); Cambodia (Royal University of Phnom Penh); United Kingdom (University of Central Lancashire); Hong Kong (BSR Asia Pacific Ltd.); Indonesia (Universitas Gadjah Mada, Universitas Airlangga); Japan (Okayama University Medical School, Osaka University, Shinshu University); Malaysia (University Kebangsaan Malaysia, University Putra Malaysia); Myanmar (Defense Services Medical Research Center, University of Economics); Singapore (National University of Singapore); Vietnam (Vietnam National University); Kingdom of Thailand (Mahidol University, Burapha University, Chiang Mai University, Chulalungkorn University, Naresuan University, Thammasat University, King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, Mahasarakham University, Walailak University, Thai Health Promotion Board); and, the Philippines (UP System offices, UP Manila, UP-Philippine General Hospital, UP Diliman, UP Open University, UP Los Baños, Ateneo de Manila University, Central Mindanao University, Centro Escolar University, De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute, De La Salle University, Emilio Aguinaldo College in Manila, Department of Health, Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center, Far Eastern University, Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies, Mariveles Medical Hospital, Mariano Marcos State University, National Teacher Training Center for the Health Professions, New Era University, Physicians for Peace Philippines, St. Paul University Manila, San Beda University, University of Santo Tomas College of Nursing, Western Mindanao State University, World Health Organization -Western Pacific Regional Office).
The Philippines, as host, had 269 registered participants. The country’s initial members of AUN are: UP, De La Salle University, and the Ateneo de Manila University. Thailand had the largest foreign delegation, with 55 participants.