Great Improvement in Public Health

Minister Jeon Jae-hee cites extension of average life expectancy in Korea to among the longest in world

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs celebrated the 37th Health Day and the 61st World Health Day April 7 in a ceremony at the Seoul Education Culture Hall in Seoul attended by some 800 people related with medical and health organizations including 227 receiving citations and special recognition for their contribution to the promotion of public health in the country Minister Jeon Jae-hee, in her commemorative speech at the ceremony, said the public health in Korea has been improving rapidly as a result of various programs initiated by the government such as those on no-smoking, excessive drinking, dietary matters and calisthenics under the National Health Promotion Law set up in 1995.
In particular, she said the national health index showed that men's average longevity improved to 76.1 years and women 82.7 years in 2007 and death rate of babies improved to 5.3 per 1,000 rising above the OECD average. Such diseases as high blood pressure and diabetes patients in Korea are on the same level as those in advanced countries, including the United States, the minister said.
Improvements in such health indices have been the result of every one in the public health related sectors putting in hard work. But with the improvement in living standards, people are getting overweight and inflicted with chronic diseases due to the lack of exercises and too much food, creating new health issues, the minister said.
Jeon especially expressed concern that the birth rate has been declining and the average age of workers rising due to the shortage of economically active population numbers and increased in the number of senior citizens brought about by the extension in the average life expectancy.
The economic downturn in recent months has made people cannot afford to care too much about their health, weakening the future manpower reserves endangering the future economic growth, Jeon warned.
On one hand, she said the public care for health has been rising, the minister said, adding that the ministry will strengthen its policies on public health in the name of securing potential economic growth base and preemptive health care to cope with the economic crisis on the occasion of Health Day.
The ministry will, first, strengthen its policy measures for old people living alone, and handicapped and health problems for children and pregnant women.
Second, the ministry will also strengthen its policies on non-smoking and overweight by ads warning the harm that could be caused by smoking and overweight.
Third, the ministry will take measures to ensure health conditions of women and children including the prevention of the birth of deformed babies, support to women to get pregnant for those who cannot, the minister said.
Fourth, the ministry will set up a system for brain and heart related diseases and the health management during the climate change to prevent such diseases as atopy and asthma related to the climate change, the minister said.
Fifth, the ministry will increase government support to prevent suicide, excessive drinking and take measures, mental health of children and youths, especially early detection of the symptoms for mental and attitude related diseases.
The government has decided to continuously expand the social safety net and made the "human deal" as its base for government policies, the minister said.
Chairman Kim Jeong-soo of the Korea Pharmaceutical Association and former minister of health and social welfare, won the highest medal among 227 who won government citations for their meritorious service in the areas of health and welfare, the Order of Civil Merit Mungunghwa Medal for his role as the minister of health and welfare, in setting up the delivery system of social welfare with the formation o an emergency medical service unit 129 for the first time in the country and the assignment of 2,000 welfare public servants across the country. He also was given credit for increasing investments in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, which led to the development of 14 new drugs and making pharmaceutical transactions transparent, as chairman of the pharmaceutical association since 2000. nw

Minister Jeon Jae-hee of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs delivers her commemorative speech at the 37th Health Day and 61st World Health Day ceremony on April 7 in Seoul. She stressed public heath in her speech.

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