“We got you excited. Now you excite the people!”
On March 4, 2017, the ent-led health advocacy organization, Project LAAN, held the Universal Health Coverage Summit: Towards Health for All at the National Institute of Physics Auditorium in UP Diliman. Speakers talked about the different ways the audience could engage the public with regard to forwarding better health care services, learning to navigate health systems, and increasing health literacy.
Mr. Karlo Paredes of the Department of Health talked about health financing, noting that the Philippines still belongs to the upper 25 percent of countries that have high out-of-pocket spending. This means that majority of individuals still use their own money to pay for hospital services that should be covered by health insurance. According to Mr. Paredes, “We need to shift out-of-pocket spending to pre-payments to avoid catastrophic payments for the families.” For the speaker, the project of health financing in the country is all about equity, or the need to recognize different needs and vulnerabilities, consequently leading to better health coverage for all sectors in society.
Meanwhile, Dr. Benjamin Lane of the World Health Organization talked extensively about the state of public health in many Third World countries, recounting his experiences from Cambodia and Vietnam. The importance of interdisciplinarity when it came to addressing universal health coverage was highlighted, with Dr. Lane citing examples of how different disciplines, from the social and natural sciences to the humanities, could address the issue of public health with a multifaceted approach. In the end, Dr. Lane encourages the participants to “engage in the complexity of the issue”, to not take health issues at face value and to talk to others in order to foster an environment that is open, critical, and hands-on when it comes to health.
Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Enrique Tayag represented Secretary of Health Dr. Paulyn Ubial, who could not make it due to an emergency engagement. Dr. Tayag mainly talked about the Philippine Health Agenda called “All For Health, Towards Health For All.” While the budget for health initiatives in the country has risen to 150 billion pesos from 20 billion pesos, there still needs to be an overhaul with regard to other aspects of the economy that affect health such as environment and infrastructures. According to the Assistant Secretary, “The mindset is we only provide services if we’re capable. What needs to change: We need to make arrangements to provide these.” In addition to this, there is also a glaring aspect in the health agenda that remains to be underdeveloped, namely health literacy or the ability of every Filipino to know their rights and understand how to navigate health systems. At the end of his presentation, Dr. Tayag invited everyone to a short dance exercise, enjoining everyone to make health an exciting endeavor for every Filipino.
Many participants actively raised questions to the three speakers who readily gave their answers. Certain questions tackled health technologies in the Philippines, policy ideas, and possibilities for youth involvement within the government. All resource speakers agreed that there is more to be done with regard to public health, especially in targeting high illiteracy and innovating practices in order to deliver quality services to far-flung areas and vulnerable communities in the country. Project LAAN hopes that by organizing events such as the Universal Health Coverage Summit, more people would take on the “All For Health” aspect in the country’s health agenda.