I recently got into a Facebook debate with a friend over the viability of Universal Health Care in the US.
Universal Health Care (UHC) is defined as a health care system that provides all citizens of a country with equitable health care and financial protection.
Some people argue that the country’s health care system should be left to the market-based system, claiming that the coverage of citizens’ health insurance should be handled by the more efficient private sector. They claim that a UHC will only put a debilitating strain on a country’s resources. My point of contention was that if it works in other democratic, developed countries, why can’t it work in the US? (Many commenters from countries like Canada and New Zealand were quick to point out how their universal health care system was working to their benefit. People in the US, on the other hand, were talking about going broke due to simple medical needs like giving birth or getting a broken bone fixed.)
The irony is that the topic should not even be up for debate.
Everyone has a human right to health care.
The right to health care is recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UHDR), a milestone document that sets out fundamental human rights to be universally honored and protected. Proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, the UHDR was drafted by representatives from all regions of the world.
The human right to health care means clinics, hospitals, doctor’s services, and medicines must be of good quality and accessible to everyone on an equitable basis.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
The health care system in the Philippines
In the last 20 years, the Philippines has seen dramatic changes in its health care system, with the government instituting various policies and reforms aimed at providing every Filipino with easy access to health benefits.
The country now has 1,071 private hospitals and 721 public hospitals. The Department of Health (DoH) handles 70 of the public hospitals while state-run agencies like local government units take care of the rest.
Most hospitals are able to provide affordable and efficient health services, although facilities pale in comparison to those offered in high-end health institutions abroad. Private hospitals in the Philippines, however, are known to have better facilities than public hospitals. The bigger problems lie in human resources. Health educators and health care providers are concentrated in urban areas, leaving rural areas with a gross lack of manpower.
In September 2017, Congress passed the the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) into law. The program aims to provide every Filipino with health care that is efficient, accessible, and adequately funded. The UHC is slated to give Filipinos all the health services they need, from disease prevention to treatment and rehabilitation.
The health care system in the Philippines continues to face several challenges, especially so in remote communities and barangays. UHC aims to address these issues by emphasizing the critical role of Local Government Units (LGUs) in the delivery of health services at the local level.
With Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje of Plaridel Bulacan and Mayor Herminigildo M. Velasco of San Gabriel, La Union, past winners of Champions For Health Governance Award
Champions for Health Governance Awards
Champions for Health Governance (CHG) recognizes top performing LGUs that excel in their implementation of local health programs. This is in accordance with the Department of Health (DOH) framework to achieve Universal Health Care for all Filipinos. The initiative is also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring healthy lives for people of all ages.
Five winning LGUs from the municipal or city level receive a cash grant worth P100,000. This is to help them continue their excellent healthcare initiatives.
Champions for Health Governance is made possible by the combined efforts of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, global pharmaceutical company MSD in the Philippines, and non-profit organization Jesse M. Robredo Foundation. CHG evaluates health programs on the basis of community engagement, health resource management, innovativeness, effectiveness, transparency and accountability, and local leadership. It also screens participating LGUs based on their contribution to the government’s push for a Universal Health Care, a solid health workforce, and health care modernization.
Photo shows past awardees of the Champions for Health Governance Awards together with representatives from Kaya Natin! Movement, MSD in the Philippines, Jesse M. Robredo Foundation and other partner stakeholders during the launch of the 2019 CHG Awards
Cooperation between public and private sectors
“The success of UHC relies heavily on government and hospital participation in city and municipal levels. The vision of a healthy Filipino community will be attained when the public and private sector spark a partnership to genuinely serve available, accessible, affordable, and quality health care programs to all Filipinos,” Kaya Natin! Champion and acting Olongapo City Mayor Sara Garcia affirms.
The Kaya Natin! Movement recognizes the vital role of the private sector in helping countries with poor healthcare systems and serious problems with diseases. They are forging multi-sectoral partnerships with non-government organizations, key government agencies, the media, and private companies, as they help Philippines achieve its Sustainable Development Goals by encouraging the private sector to share its technical and business expertise.
“We value our partnership with MSD because we believe that good and innovative health governance will ultimately lead to healthier cities and municipalities. This will then lead to more productive citizens in our country which will then lead towards solving poverty and inequality in our country,” said Keh.
The partnership is intrinsic to MSD’s vision to improve the accessibility of innovative therapies. Driven by their commitment to improving the health and well-being of people around the world, MSD develops research-based vaccines and medicines for several of the most challenging diseases in the world, such as HIV, cancer, antibiotic resistant infection, cardio-metabolic ailments, vaccine-preventable diseases, and emerging global pandemics.
“We, at the private sector, aims to be a partner of choice of all our stakeholders. Aligned to our vision to continuously invent for life, we share the responsibility of improving the health and access to quality healthcare among Filipino people. One way of realizing that goal is through meaningful collaborations with key government units,” said Dr. Beaver Tamesis, president of MSD in the Philippines.
“Trust that we will continue to share our expertise and resources until gaps in health systems are filled and equitable access to true UHC is achieved,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the Jesse M. Robredo Foundation, Vice President Leni Robredo asserts that the first key step to the successful expansion of universal healthcare coverage is by cultivating strong connections with stakeholders and communities.
“My husband is an advocate of developing strong, robust and reliable social services because he believes good leadership is measured by the amount of trust built between the government and its citizens. When people have faith in their leaders, people are more likely to participate in government initiatives,” she said.
“My father, Jesse Robredo, had always believed in the power of the local government. CHG seeks to challenge our local leaders to generate innovative ways to solve their localities’ health problems despite the odds,” explains Jessica Marie Robredo, chairman of Jesse Robredo Foundation.
Photo shows (L-R) Acting Olongapo Mayor Dra. Sarah Lugerna Garcia; Mayor Herminigildo Velasco of San Gabriel Lau Union; Mayor Jocell Casaje of Plaridel Bulacan; Jessica Robredo of JMRF; Dr. Beaver Tamesis of MSD in the Philippines; and Harvey Keh of Kaya Natin Movement during the launch event
The official launch of this year’s CHG
This year’s search for the Champions for Health Governance was officially launched at an event led by Kaya Natin! Movement board member Harvey S. Keh. The event was also graced by past champions.
Mayor Herminigildo M. Velasco of San Gabriel, La Union
“Our fourth class municipality of San Gabriel, where 90 percent of the population is comprised of indigenous people, lack the resources that higher-class municipalities and cities have at their disposal. We viewed this challenge as an opportunity to revisit and review our programs, study local data, analyze and effect policies that will address identified priorities using the resources at hand,” shared Mayor Herminigildo M. Velasco of San Gabriel.
The municipality of San Gabriel, La Union was recognized with a CHG award two years ago.
“CHG’s initiative spurs municipalities like us to bring out our ‘best practices’ in healthcare. The recognition we received continue to inspire our people to work hard in promoting and sustaining our various efforts,” Mayor Velasco added.
Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje of Plaridel Bulacan
The municipality of Plaridel, Bulacan bagged the CHR award last year. A first-class municipality, Plaridel has enough resources to get by. Their proactive approach to healthcare is driven by their unwavering drive to improve the community’s well-being.
“We won the ‘Best Mental Health Implementer’ in February 2017 for our Women and Child Crisis Center. We also received the ‘Best HEalth Practice’ in December 2017 for our ‘Ugot, Haplos, Aruga’, which promotes Early Childhood Care and Developmental Intervention,” said Mayor Jocell Casaje.
“The prize we received as CHGA in 2017 were allocated back to our Barangay Health Leadership Management Program for our 19 barangays and in the procurement of mental health commodities. Plaridel is consistent,” she added.
A goal as huge as a Universal Health Care is not impossible if all stakeholders have full involvement, from private enterprises and non-governmental organizations to government agencies and LGUs. Champions for Health Governance is an initiative that puts all these key ingredients together.
For more information on the mechanics and criteria for the screening process, interested LGUs may visit the CHG website and Facebook page. Deadline for submission of entries will be on December 28, 2018.
Good luck to all participating LGUs this year!
Author: Tahna de Veyra
Voracious eater. Coffee dependent. Book sniffer. Music addict. Profound thinker. Certified ambivert. Life-hungry maverick. Nonchalant realist. Hesitant blogger.