The Department of Health (DOH) today called on the different government agencies and development partners to support the DOH’s efforts to achieve President Benigno Aquino’s priority agenda of universal health care (or Kalusugang Pangkalahatan) within the next three years.
“It is ironic that millions of people continue to die needlessly from diseases whose cures and treatments have long been discovered, adding that the availability of all sorts of treatment modalities has made health care, especially personal health care, a cause of poverty and impoverishment instead of being a critical component in its alleviation,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said.
Kalusugang Pangkalahatan is the government’s health agenda to address the inequities that exist especially in access to health care. It is primarily focused on three strategic thrusts, namely 1) financial risk protection through expansion in National Health Insurance Program enrollment and benefit delivery, 2) improved access to modern hospitals and health facilities, 3) attainment of health related Millennium Development Goals which are all aimed at improving access of the poor and the near poor to quality health care.
Ona’s call was made during the three-day DOH-led Presidential Forum and Senior Policy Seminar on Health Financing & Universal Health Care which was organized to increase the awareness of various stakeholders on the issues surrounding the government’s health agenda. International and local health care reform experts shared their knowledge and experience on similar health reform initiatives both here and abroad. Participants included senior officials of the Departments of Finance, Budget & Management, Social Work & Development, and the National Economic Development Authority, PhilHealth; Representatives of the Legislative Committees on Health & Finance/Appropriations; Local Chief Executives; former DOH secretaries; the academe; medical societies, and other stakeholders.
Development partners such as the World Bank, US Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, European Union, GiZ, AECID, UNFPA, UNAIDS, the global Providers for Health (P4H) network, JICA and others also took part in this milestone event.
Mr. Bert Hofman, World Bank Philippine Country Director, who gave the opening remarks on behalf of development partners, underscored the need for building a common policy and implementation framework supported by stakeholders in health for achieving universal health.
The Regional Director of the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region, Dr. Shin Young-Soo, noted that with the political commitment for universal health care at the highest levels, a social health insurance that covers at present half of the Filipino population and a health system that can provide reasonable care to most areas of the country, a “final push” is needed to make health care accessible to more Filipinos through reducing high out of pocket expenses.
Ona mentioned that there are challenges in implementing health care financing and delivery reforms in an extremely decentralized health system and added that a robust policy framework which has the support of key stakeholders and catalyzes major changes in PhilHealth will be critical.
“Political will is the key to achieving the reforms. Now that we know what to do, let’s just do it,” concluded the Health Chief.-30- DOH