Australia signs new health cooperation agreements with China

24 November, 2015

Australia has signed agreements with China last week, refreshing the framework for technical cooperation between the two countries on health issues, including communicable disease control, preventative health, and medicines policy.

The Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, has travelled to China to sign the Australia-China Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Plan of Action on Health Cooperation, with her Chinese counterpart, Dr Li Bin.

"Australia and China have a long and very strong relationship in health and there is much we can work closely on and continue to learn from each other," Minister Ley said.

"The signing of these agreements comes 22 years after the first such agreements were signed in Canberra, providing an updated framework for cooperation.

"The MoU provides a framework for collaboration on health related policy issues. Cooperation may include exchange of information, joint projects and participation at key meetings.

"The MoU is complemented by a three year Plan of Action. The Plan sets out a number of broad priority areas for cooperation such as health systems innovation and sustainability; communicable disease prevention and response; non-communicable disease prevention and management, including tobacco control; medicines policy, such as medicines procurement; and blood safety."

Under the Plan of Action, China and Australia have agreed to hold annual ministerial and/or senior official meetings in the margins of key international meetings, such as the World Health Assembly, to discuss health policy issues of mutual interest. Activities may also include further reciprocal visits by officials and the sharing of information about key policy developments as opportunities arise.

"The signing of these new agreements is testimony to the strength and breadth of the bilateral relationship between China and Australia," Minister Ley said.

While in Beijing, Minister Ley and Dr Li Bin discussed common challenges and opportunities in providing access to health services, particularly for people living in rural and remote areas, health technology assessment policy and tobacco control measures.

"China and Australia share many common challenges in health and it is through visits such as this that we are able to learn from each other’s experiences and together work to build stronger health systems for our populations," Minister Ley said.

"It is pleasing that both Australia and China agree that the growing burden of chronic disease in both our countries requires a more co-ordinated approach that is centered around primary care.

"This is something Australia remains committed to addressing through our Primary Health Care Advisory Group and I look forward to further cooperation between Australia and China in this area."

Ley said there was also common agreement between the two nations about the need to fund new health technology and treatments efficiently and share knowledge on how best to achieve this, including in the areas of digital and Telehealth, as well as Australia's world-class public medicine subsidy system, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

"I also welcomed the opportunity to visit the Peking University Hospital to see the latest advances in acute care in China, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss communicable disease control.

"China plays a vital international role in preventing, reporting and responding to communicable disease outbreaks and health emergencies and this visit has reinforced the importance of cooperation in this area."