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The APEC Health Week Meeting started with “Smart Families” policy discussion

The APEC Health Week Meeting started with “Smart Families” policy discussion - HealthServ

The APEC Health Week Meeting started with “Smart Families” policy discussion to cope with the low birth rate, and impact on labor and economy.

  • Date: 20.07.2022 Update: 23.08.2022
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On the first day, 22 August 2022, of the APEC Health Week meeting, the Deputy Minister of Public Health gave the policy dialogue on “Smart Families”. The experts on public health, family planning educational institution, and international organization are gathered to deal with the demographic problems. It was revealed that 17 economic zones have a total fertility rate lower than the replacement rate, which brings worrisome about being born less. This causes the decline of the labor age, creates a burden of working age on taking care of society - raising children and the elderly, and also creates a long-term economic impact.
 
At the Millennium Hilton Bangkok Hotel, Dr.Satit Pitutecha, Deputy Minister of Public Health gave the Policy Dialogue on “Smart Families” at the APEC Health Week meeting said that of all 21 APEC members economies, it was found that 17 economies are facing demographic problems. The overall fertility rate is lower than the replacement rate, so this is causing the population to decline, and it affects the economy in the long run. Thailand is one of the economic zones that are facing this problem as well. Nowadays, Thailand has a population around 66 million people and we have already entered an aging society, and we are soon fully entering an aged society. In 2020 Thailand had total 1.24 fertility rate, which is lower than the replacement level, and the total fertility rate should be around 1.6.
 
“At present, Thailand has fewer newborns every year. In 2017, the newborn in Thailand were about 700,000. In 2021, the number of births decreased to 5.4 hundred thousand. The number of births is gradually decreasing and now it is close to the number of deaths. If we are doing nothing, the birth rate will be less than the death rate, and Thailand’s population may be halved. Then, the number of working-age population will be decreasing and they will have more burden on taking care of society, children and the elderly. It is estimated that in the next 40 years, the working age will decrease by 15 million, and the elderly will increase by 12 million. This change will affect the economy, society and finances of the country”, Dr. Satit said.
 
Dr.Satit said Today’s meeting is an opportunity for APEC member economies to exchange their current situations and make commitment on solving this situation with public health officials, family planning specialists, civil society, with educational, institutions, international organizations, and the private sector of each APEC economy participated. The example of topic shared in the meeting are reproductive planning guidelines for individuals and families who wish to have children and avoid unintended pregnancies, etc. Thailand presented about the Smart Families project in this session.
 
Dr.Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, the Director-General of the Department of Health said that Thailand’s population policy is divided into three phases. In the first phase, during Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram was a Prime Minister, Thai people were encouraged to have more children. As a result, the population increased from 14.5 million in 1937 to 26.3 million in 1960. Then, family planning was promoted in the second phase to reduce the population growth after Thailand saw very high number of populations increasing. The family planning policy was first announced in 1970 and was developed into a National Family Planning Program. It was a successful policy and received international recognition. The birth control rate rose from 14 percent to 72 percent. And now, the third phase is where the number and demographic are more complex than in the past. This is a challenge to the new population policy. Since the total fertility rate in Thailand has dropped dramatically. There are problems with unintended pregnancy in adolescent pregnancy, accidental pregnancy, and unsafe abortion. Thailand is currently one of the countries with the lowest total fertility rates in the world. According to World Population Prospect 2022, the data showed that only 20 countries have lower total fertility rates than Thailand in 2021.
 
Dr. Suwannachai also said the Ministry of Public Health is prepared to cope with such situations by promoting “Smart Families”, enacting laws and formulating policies which is the 2nd National Reproductive Health Development Policy and Strategy. The aim of this nation policy is to promote the readiness of pregnancy, to give birth with full intention, and to foster care of their children for optimum growth with the full potential so they can be important force of the country for further development in the future. We also enacted an Act for Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem to integrate relevant sectors to work together as a committee. With this act, the birth rate among adolescents aged 15-19 years decreased to half before 10 years, and by 2027, we aim that the adolescent birth rate will be less than 1.5 per thousand population. Moreover, this policy and strategy also reduces the problem of disconnection from the education system, and provides welfares for supporting adolescent mothers as well.
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