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Culture contributes much to the state of health of people, according to key experts as they recently explored at the Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila the various aspects that affect the health of people in the Asia Pacific region. Health issues such as A (H1N1), parasitism, bangungot (nightmare), and equitable health care took on fresh perspective as discussed in the context of culture by key experts.

The evolution of the A(H1N1) virus strains was discussed by Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Adviser on Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response. Prof. Lerma Paris of the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City enlightened the audience on a case study of three young boys afflicted with parasitism caused largely by the culture of poverty they live in.

Dr. Carolyn Sobritchea analyzed the gender dimensions of climate change, particularly the adverse impacts of disasters on women's reproductive health. With co-author Dr. Hiroko Hara of the Josai International University in Japan's Chiba Prefecture, she recommended several measures to protect women and children from reproductive health risks and vulnerabilities during calamities, such as Pepeng and Ondoy typhoons that hit the country hard last year.

Dr. Michael Tan of the University of the Philippines Diliman used bangungot (nightmare, or pokkuri in Japan) to illustrate the potentials of transdisciplinary work in examining syndromes. He pointed to migration, diaspora, perceptions, and aspirations for wellness as important factors in developing cultural competence. Citing bangungot as an example, Dr. Tan revealed the medical and biomedical explanations of the syndrome, as well as, folk explanations that have glaring similarities across cultures, particularly among Ilocanos, Japanese, and Singaporeans.

Broadcaster Melly Tenorio of DZRB discussed traditional healing in the light of culture, while Former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez presented health financing and equity in the Philippine context.

Discussions held last June 15 focused on technology and health, while June 16 topics zeroed in on environment and health.

The Philippines hosted the 10th Science Council of Asia Conference this year through the National Research Council of the Philippines of the Department of Science and Technology (NRCP-DOST). The conference revolves around the theme "Meeting Health Challenges in the Asia Pacific Responding Through an Integrated and Multidisciplinary Approach in Science and Technology."

In her keynote speech, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral hailed the organizers and participants of the three-day conference. She noted that climate change, pandemic diseases, and other issues are now the concerns not just of international bodies and the first world countries but of everybody.

"Health is a basic human right," Cabral reminded the group. "Thus we should not leave out the humanization' aspect in our activities. Let us make people the center of our policies and programs."

Meanwhile, Dr. Ichiro Kanazawa, president of the Science Council of Asia, expressed hope that the SCA will continue to provide forum and platform for exchange of ideas among SCA participants. Science Secretary Estrella Alabastro likewise challenged all participants to continue working together in improving the health of people in the Asia Pacific region, underlining that "we are all in this together."