Ambassador Krol’s Speech for AmCham Conference: Healthcare Reform: Protecting the Nation’s Health

28 September, 2016


Madam Minister, Ambassador Steil, colleagues and friends.

Good Morning.

I am pleased to participate in opening this event with Minister Duisenova and my good colleague and northern neighbor Ambassador Steil of Canada.

This year we celebrate not only 25 years of Kazakhstan’s independence, but a quarter century of partnership between Kazakhstan and the United States.

Over these years the United States has partnered with Kazakhstan through a variety of programs to improve the health of Kazakhstan and the region.

The United States Agency for International Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State Department, Department of Commerce and Department of Defense have worked with agencies of the Government of Kazakhstan on a variety of programs that have successfully improved public health and the quality of healthcare provided to the population.

Most recently, Kazakhstan became a partner country in the Global Health Security Agenda with the goal making the world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.

Twenty-five years ago, our bilateral cooperation started under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s program to support Kazakhstan’s historic decision to rid itself of nuclear and chemical weapons.

I think we can all agree that this decision contributed a great deal to Global Health Security.

We can point to many examples, from our work to secure material from the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site to Kazakhstan’s key role in concluding the historic nuclear agreement reached last year with Iran.

However, while nuclear weapons hold vast destructive power, I would submit that the threat deadly diseases pose to humanity is no less destructive. That is why the Central Reference Laboratory, constructed with the help of the United States and recently opened on the campus of Kazakhstan’s Scientific Center for Quarantine of Zoonotic Diseases is a cornerstone in a collaborative effort to respond quickly and effectively to deadly outbreaks of infectious disease. The work of this Center will protect the health of the people not only of Kazakhstan, but of Central Asia, and indeed of the entire world. This state of the art facility demonstrates what we as partners can accomplish when the best minds of our two great nations work together in the spirit of scientific progress and mutual trust.

Biological pathogens do not observe national borders. That is why it is imperative for experts from all nations to work together to defeat these threats at the source. This new reference laboratory makes this work possible. The Kazakhstani scientists employed in this laboratory will work closely with experts from the international community, including from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. As new outbreaks emerge in Kazakhstan or in other parts of Central Asia, the scientists in this center will stand ready to counter them.

Since 1992, USG agencies and programs including USAID, CDC, and PEPFAR have closely supported with the government of Kazakhstan in its efforts to improve the quality of healthcare provided to the population, by
a) improving the health care policy and legal framework including support for development and implementation of the Kazakhstan State Health Care Development Program;
b) introducing internationally-recognized evidence-based standards of practice in a number of priority programs including especially dangerous pathogens (EDPs), TB, HIV, maternal and child health, family planning, cardiovascular disease, and other important non-communicable diseases;
c) improving the ability of the primary health care sector to provide accessible quality services through structural, financing, and service delivery reforms;
d) increasing the involvement of the population in their own health and educating the population and communities on health issues;
e) expanding access to and improving the quality of TB and HIV diagnosis and care, including improving infection prevention and control;
f) solidifying the gains in health financing reform as the foundation for improving equity, efficiency, and population access to high quality health services through the State Guaranteed Benefit Package; and
g) supporting the ongoing development and implementation of a robust continuing medical education program for health care providers.

Through these partnerships, Kazakhstan has made dramatic and encouraging improvements in health care services, access to care, and survival rates.

A great example of this is in the fight to eradicate Tuberculosis (TB). Over the last ten years the number of new TB cases has been cut in half and deaths reduced more than four times.

Kazakhstan has also made substantial progress in preventing infections, providing quality testing and treatment, and saving lives.

In this regard, the U.S. government has partnered with the National TB Program to support the introduction of the first new TB drug in more than 40 years (Bedaquiline) to battle drug-resistant TB.

We have also collaborated to introduce technology that rapidly diagnoses multidrug-resistant TB in a few hours instead of many weeks.

However, not all drugs are created equal.

Use of counterfeit medicines can easily lead to quick reversals in the health gains Kazakhstan has seen. Poor quality medications can lead to patient death and on the public health level can lead to resistance (now one of the leading international concerns in health—when the last line antibiotic stops working, we have no more drug therapies to offer).

This is where the U.S. Department of Commerce has partnered with the Government of Kazakhstan to increase and strengthen Kazakhstan’s capacity to detection and interdict counterfeit medications and prosecute offenses under Kazakhstan’s laws.
The Commercial Law Development Program and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office also work with Kazakhstan’s Customs officials and Ministry of Justice on a regular basis- in bilateral and multilateral seminars.

Just last week the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office brought judges and officials from the U.S. to meet with their Kazakhstani counterparts to discuss issues relating to intellectual property rights enforcement. These interactions help facilitate regional trade while protecting public safety.

Protecting a nation’s health requires vigilance. It a responsibility that cannot be achieved by a single actor or sector of government. Its success depends upon collaboration among the health, security, environment, agriculture, education, finance, justice…all sectors. The US government congratulates the government of Kazakhstan for its strong commitment to health reform.

We are honored to continue our collaboration with all Ministries in Kazakhstan as Kazakhstan seeks to improve and protect the health and health security of the Kazakhstani people.

In closing, let me say that the U.S. and Kazakhstan have done much together over the past 25 years in the field of health care. Kazakhstan has become a leader in improving health care for its citizens by virtue through its strong vision and commitment and its openness to collaboration with partners such the United States and others. Together we have built a strong foundation for continued and future cooperation.

I wish all participants in this conference great success –and of course good health!

Thank you for your attention.