VIENTIANE, Lao PDR – On May 2-3, 2019, Dr. Robert Pope, Director, Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), met with counterparts in the Lao government and military, as well as representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), to review the positive results from U.S.-Lao cooperative health security programs. Dr. Pope discussed the importance of designing a sustainable and enduring heath security system which will strengthen disease surveillance and prevention in the Lao PDR.
U.S. Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter joined Dr. Pope, and the U.S. delegation when they met Minister of Health Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bounkong Syhavong to discuss health security cooperation. In a meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vice Minister Khambounnath Xayanone and Dr. Pope reviewed U.S.-Lao cooperative efforts to strengthen training for Lao veterinarians and animal health surveillance, important for protecting human health and the Lao agricultural economy. Dr. Pope also met with officials from the Ministry of National Defense including Brigadier General Bouasing Inthavong, Director General of the Lao Military Medical Department, to discuss ways to build capacity in the military health sector.
“The United States is a great partner for Laos as health experts from both countries work together on long term sustainable health security,” said U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR Rena Bitter. “Dr. Pope and his team’s visit, including their partnerships with both civilian and military health officials in Laos, shows our respect for Lao sovereignty by helping the country achieve its public health goals.”
These cooperative activities integrate human, animal, and military health sectors to bring a unified approach to health security in Laos. U.S.-trained Lao public health professionals were instrumental in the response to the flood disaster in Attepeu Province in August 2018, recent influenza outbreaks, and the ongoing measles outbreak across the country. Lao government surveillance and early detection of human and animal diseases associated with those events reduced the spread of infection and limited the negative health and economic impacts to the country.
In addition to meetings with Lao officials, Dr. Pope and the U.S. delegation visited laboratories and medical research facilities to see first-hand how U.S. Government-supported training programs for health professionals have strengthened laboratory and research capacity in Laos. Partnering to improve health security strengthens Lao sovereignty and protection from external heath threats as the country continues to rapidly develop. In addition to these efforts to combat infectious diseases, the U.S. Government also supports a wide range of health related programs in Laos to promote nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, maternal and child health, support for people living with disabilities, and school feeding.