Growth and development in Asian economies have received global attention in recent decades. The dramatic rise of Japan as an economic powerhouse in the decades after the Second World War was followed by impressive economic developments in the four Asian tigers – South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong – between the 1960s and 1990s, and the more recent spectacular progress that has been made in the world’s most populous nations, China and India. Economic developments have since permeated the whole of Asia. Gross national income (GNI) per capita has increased across the continent and there are now 34 out of 40 jurisdictions classifi ed as high-or middle-income countries, with GNI per capita of US$1,036 or more [1]. Equally dramatic have been the social developments and the achievements made in improving the health of populations in Asia. In tandem with the global experience life expectancy has improved substantially in the past 40 years, resulting mainly from the reductions in mortalities in children and women [2]. Improvements in socio-economic conditions, availability of safe water and better sanitation, better disease control programmes, investments in health systems and improvements in health services have all contributed to the improvements in life expectancy. However, economic progress has also brought new problems and challenges for health and health systems. Changing disease patterns arising from changing lifestyles and demographic transitions, and rising expectations of a more educated and affl uent population, are emerging issues which pose challenges for health systems.