South-East Asia Conference on Population and Health

The first South-East Asia Population and Health biennial conference will be at the Portsmouth-Brawijaya Centre for Global Health, Population and Policy, University of Brawijaya, Malang, Indonesia during November 8-9, 2018. This is jointly sponsored by the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom; University of Brawijaya, Indonesia; and National Family Planning Board (BKKBN), Indonesia. The BKKBN will provide registration fee, accommodation, and travel cost for 60 Indonesian delegates. The conference will provide 20 travel grant awards (travel, accommodation, and registration fee) to postgraduate student and early career researchers from the South East Asia whose papers have been accepted for oral presentation. Travel grant application forms will be send to those participants whose papers have been accepted. All other participants will have pay for conference fee of $US350.00 to cover two working lunch, 2 dinners, and two breakfast as well as accommodation for two nights (7th and 8th). The conference will be held at The Singhasari Resort, Bandu.


Submission procedure:

Submission for presentation or poster should be made in the form of extended abstract to

Deadline for receiving extended abstracts: 15 June, 2018


Scientific Rationale:

The aim of the biennial conference is to bring together population and health researchers from across the world to discuss some of the contemporary population and health issues in the South East Asia region. South East Asia consists of Brunei, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. There are significant differences and similarities among the 11 countries with regard to population and health indicators. The South-East Asian countries together have a population of around 640 million, Indonesia being the largest with about 245 million and Timor-Leste the smallest with 1.2 million people.  Religious diversity is an important feature of the countries in the region: Buddhism (Myanmar, Thailand, the Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Vietnam), Catholicism, (influential in the Philippines and Timor-Leste); and Islam (Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei Darussalam). Religion has a significant bearing on population and health through key social and behavioral pathways.

Family planning programmes have been the official vehicles to reduce population growth globally, particularly in developing countries. Modern contraceptive use varies between countries in the region with higher use in Thailand (79%) and Vietnam (77%) and lower use in economically less advanced countries (e.g. 43% in Lao-PDR). In the Philippines modern contraceptive use is only 38%. Therefore, the conference will be focusing on some key research areas: What are the emerging family planning needs of men and women in countries where contraceptive use is higher; and countries where it is lower? Contraceptive use among specific demographic groups is vitally important to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions. What is the role of publically funded national family planning programmes in an era of continuing fertility decline? What would be the best way to target family planning programmes? We welcome papers on novel and innovative ways of targeting family planning services and integrating them with other health services. With declining international funding new ways to finance family planning programmes are also needed to sustain the demand for contraceptives and to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

In 2015, more than half of the countries in the region had fertility rates below replacement level (2.1 children per woman). The overall fertility rate in the region is close to below replacement level, and there are indications that fertility rates will continue to fall in countries where it is presently high. Why are fertility rates declining below replacement level and how low it will drop? The consequences of those transitions are not yet fully understood including the prospects of reversal of fertility rates once it has fallen below replacement level.  A particular focus of the conference will be to understand the economic and social benefits, and the population dividend, of low fertility rates to the women, couples and the family– an important rationale for its use. What are the policies and programmers of low fertility countries to tap demographic dividends resulting from fertility declines? We expect the conference papers to examine these issues within and between countries in the region. We also encourage policy relevant papers to address population dividend.

An inevitable consequences of fertility rate decline is population ageing. The proportion of the population 65 years and above in the region varies between 3.5% – 12%. The percentage of 65+ population in Thailand and Singapore is over 10%, and it is lowest in Timor–Leste and Lao PDR (about 3.5%). An important aspect of ageing is care of the elderly. There are a number of factors in the region that influence the provision of care to the elderly. The current levels of fertility rate decline and the rapid socio-economic transformation incur a very challenging situation for the care of growing ageing population. For example, in traditional South East Asian households women play an important role in caring for elderly parents. Migration of women would alter this support system within the family. What are the new institutional care arrangements for the elderly and what are the impact of these on the well-being of the elderly? We anticipate a range of issues to be addressed in the conference from countries that have higher proportions of elderly population.

Migration, both internal and international, is an important demographic phenomenon that the majority of countries in the region have been experiencing either as a sending or receiving country. In 2015 there were 3.8 million international migrants from Indonesia; 1.18 million from Cambodia; 0.32 million from Singapore; 5.32 million from the Philippines; 2.55 million from Vietnam; 2.88 million from Myanmar; 0.03 million from Timor-Leste; 0.85 million from Thailand. Thailand receives a large number of migrants from Myanmar (1.9 million in 2015). The scale of international female migration is unique to this region. In particular, Indonesia sends about 1.69 million international female migrants; Philippines 2.84 million; Myanmar 1.24 million; and Vietnam 1.23 million. Female migration has a significant social impact on the family, particularly on left-behind children, husbands and elderly parents. Far less understood is the impact of female migration on health and wellbeing, particularly the emotional aspects of the migrant herself. We need to understand the best ways to minimize the negative impacts of migration. An intractable development challenge of migration is how to sustain the economic contribution of migration, particularly after the return migration. We encourage papers on both national and international migration focusing on impact.

Changes in the Family system is one of the important social changes being observed across South-East Asia. Changes in women’s roles in the family is a major fault line in maintaining the traditional family structure where women played the role of home maker. Women’s education and employment levels are the main triggers of the change in the women’s role from home maker to bread winner. Marriage is also changing in the region. Self-selection is replacing the traditionally arranged marriages. Studies also indicate increasing number of women remaining single. Increasing age at marriage is also noted. Divorce rates are increasing in many countries in South-East Asia. For example, in Malaysia the Crude Divorce Rate (CDR) increased from 1.09 in 2001 to 1.50 in 2007. The conference will include papers on family systems, marriage, and divorce. We encourage both comparative and local studies, and those linking family, marriage and divorce.

With regard to the UN sustainable development goals (non-health), the outlook is diverse. The region exhibits significant economic and structural inequality: Singapore being the most economically advanced (GDP: $52,245) and Timor-Leste the least advanced ($987). In Thailand and Malaysia less than 1% of the population are below the poverty line. In Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar, poverty levels have declined by about 50% percent since the 1990s. Paradoxically, poverty levels have been reported to be increasing in Timor–Leste (49%). Other non-health Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect a similar pattern. What are the links of non-health SDGs with population change, and how could SDGs be part of the wider population agenda? We hope to receive papers on the link between non-health SDGs (e.g. gender, inequalities, education, economic growth) with population change.

Health indicators in the region show a mixed picture. The region demonstrates life expectancy at birth between 66-83 years. The highest life expectancy is in Singapore and the lowest in Lao-PDR. What are the implications of increased life expectancy in terms of morbidity and health needs? What are the main drivers of increased life expectancy and what tolls its progress in some countries? Are there regional and population sub-group variations in life expectancy?

Maternal health has improved significantly in the region. However, there are many countries where the rate of maternal mortality is still very high, Timor-Leste for example with 215/100,000 live births. Neonatal and infant mortality rates are low in countries where maternal mortality rate is low. The highest neonatal mortality rate was in Lao-PDR (30/1000 live births) and lowest in Singapore (1/1000). Adolescent health is a particular interest as rapid social change is taking place amid technological advancement in social and digital media. Studies report teenage pregnancy and induced abortions as a concern, particularly in the Philippines and Thailand. In the Philippines 1 in every 10 adolescents aged 15-19 years are mothers. The conference will invite papers that provide new insights towards understanding from a continuum of care perspective covering all stages of reproductive life.

The region is experiencing a significant increase in non-communicable diseases driven by lifestyle changes. Overall, non-communicable diseases are overtaking communicable diseases. For example, deaths due to non-communicable diseases in the region are between 47-76%. More economically advanced countries in the region have higher non-communicable disease rates as a major cause of death compared to poorer countries. The region is facing a coexistence of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Diabetes, an important life style disease is increasing in the region. In Malaysia, for example, about 18% of the population in the age group 20-79 years were diabetic. Smoking, another key risk factor of non-communicable diseases such as lung cancer, is high in South East Asia (28-75%). Indonesia has the highest percentage of male smokers (76%) and Singapore the lowest (28%). Despite several initiatives to prevent smoking the practice is continuing, and the health impact could be higher if other lifestyle related diseases co-exist. The nexus between lifestyle and health is an area needing special focus in policies/programmes to discourage certain lifestyles. We expect conference papers providing deeper insights to these issues.

What type of health systems do the countries in South East Asia require to meet the new and emerging health needs is an important area for investigation. Traditionally the health systems are geared to cater to maternal and child health services with some provision for curative services. The emergence of non-communicable diseases, the growing elderly population, and an increasing number of mental health problems require the health system to be compatible with changes in the health profile of the population. The role of the private sector is important in this context. Universal health coverage is still unavailable to many people in the region. New universal health insurance programmers have been launched in many counties in the region but the impact on health outcomes are yet to be evaluated. The Indonesian Universal Health Care programme started in 2013 is a case in point. The conference will welcome papers on comparative analysis of health systems in the region enabling cross learning. Evaluation of current insurance programmes will also be encouraged.

Population mainstreaming in national and sub-national development programmes are vital given the wider implications of population change in the region. The conference will examine various population policies and programmes in addressing some of the inequalities driven by development programmes