On May 17, 2023, Mr. Suriyan Vichitlekan, Executive Director, Mekong Institute (MI) unveiled key findings from the study “Business Development Plan for the Regional Public Health Laboratory (RPHL) Network Network” at the Annual Partnership Forum 2023 in Bangkok. He highlighted critical factors for a functioning secretariat, various governance models, and business plans.
“Strengthening a regional network is a long-term continual process, building upon mutual benefits and interests, with active participation, shared responsibilities and commitments of the members,” Mr. Suriyan presented to the network members.
Established in 2019 by the Department of Medical Sciences, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, the RPHL Network commenced operations in January 2020 and currently consists of 12 country members from the 10 ASEAN countries, Nepal and Timor Leste. Papua New Guinea is in the process of becoming a member. The network plays significant roles in sharing information, knowledge, and resources, conducting technical sessions, and facilitating capacity building among human health regional public health laboratories. In recognizing that the network requires a sustainability plan, the RPHL Network Secretariat commissioned MI to conduct the study from March–May 2023.
On the topic of a robust secretariat, he laid out broad recommendations as follows: “A functional secretariat with a legal personality takes time. To achieve this, a transitional plan is needed to provide an interim working mechanism. Lastly, what’s important is a dedicated secretariat with hand-holding/advisory support, to ensure steady progress of the secretariat and that it can adapt to the evolving situation and requirements.”
On the sidelines of the forum, Mr. Suriyan also explored the possibilities for collaboration between MI and the RPHL Network in promoting the global public health security and public health lab cooperation in the ASEAN/GMS region.