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UHC goals aim to address inequities in maternal and child health - former DOH Secretary Romualdez

In his presentation during the 6th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week celebration, Dr. Alberto Romualdez, President of the Culion Foundation Inc. and former Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH), illustrated the problem of inequity in health by comparing the rate of maternal deaths in low and high income areas in the country.

“Over 100 poor women die during childbirth for every 1000 term pregnancies while among the rich, the figure is less than 10,” said Dr. Romualdez.

Maternal death rate is second only to infant mortality rate as indicator of the general the health condition of a country. For Dr. Romualdez, the gap in maternal death rates in two different socio-economic groups of women is alarming sign of inequity in  the provision of health care services. The data exemplifies the reality that quality health care is only exclusive to those who can afford it.

The caesarean procedure for childbirth is among the services that the poor has no access with. Even though the procedure can prove to be necessary and life-saving, pregnant women from poor families opt not to undergo the surgery because it is too expensive. On the other hand, women from wealthier communities choose to give birth via caesarean section even if it is not needed. He said, "In our country, in the lowest income group, only 2% of women get caesarean sections which means that a large number of women in this income group, even if caesarean sections are life-saving, were not able to access it. On the other hand, 30% of women from the high income group, even if they do not need caesarean sections, are subjected to the operative procedures.”

Inequity in the provision of health care services is also evident in the success on the women’s chosen family planning method. Women from the lowest income groups are less likely able to follow their own choice of contraception and end up with multiple pregnancies. “Hoping to have only three children, women end up with 6 or 7 pregnancies during their reproductive years,” Dr. Romualdez said.

With the current UHC initiatives, Dr. Romualdez is optimistic that the Philippines will be able to solve health inequities in due time. He stressed, “Universal Health Care is the response to inequity. With UHC in place, individuals, families and communities can actually get their fair share of quality health care services from the government.”