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Korea, Japan, China agree on 'close cooperation' to fight disease

By Elizabeth Shim
Korea, Japan, China agree on 'close cooperation' to fight disease
South Korea Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said this weekend Seoul should work with Tokyo and Beijing to stabilize drug prices in the region. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Health ministers of South Korea, Japan and China have agreed to work together on fighting newly emerging diseases and to prepare for rapidly aging societies.

During a trilateral meeting in Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture over the weekend, the three ministers pledged to maintain "close cooperation" on urgent issues affecting the region, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Monday.

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"Considering the geographical proximity of the three countries and the increase in human and physical exchange, we urgently need close regional cooperation to deal with the epidemic of infectious diseases," the ministers said in a joint declaration.

Japan is to host a trilateral conference on Dec. 5 on the prevention and control of infectious diseases, including avian influenza or H7N9, according to Yonhap.

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South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said the three countries should work together to stabilize drug prices after conducting separate discussions with the Chinese and Japanese officials on bilateral concerns.

Japanese Health Minister Takumi Nemoto said international cooperation is needed to deal with the issue of multinational pharmaceutical companies demanding "excessive price increases," using their monopoly over markets.

Nemoto said Japan should take an interest in a medical "swap" program where vaccines could be donated to other countries in times of need.

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All three countries are facing declining populations and aging societies. The health ministers may have shared ideas to tackle changing demographics.

China's Mao Xiaowei said Beijing is interested in learning from South Korea's policy of "integrated community care service," which allows the elderly to stay in their homes as health workers visit them -- rather than having the patients move to care facilities or hospices.

South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported last week the Korean government plans to build 40,000 units of public housing near hospitals so the elderly will be assisted at home.

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One out of five people in Korea are expected to be age 65 or older by 2026, according to the report.

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