“Health care should heal, not hurt, injure, or kill,” stressed Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) in her keynote speech during the 29th International Conference of the International Society for Quality in Health Care held in Geneva, Switzerland last 22 October 2012.
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.”
“To boost the quality of our health care system, we must, first, ensure sufficient funding for it and then, create a research culture to leverage those investments,” stressed Senator Edgardo Angara in his message, delivered by Dr. Carmencita Padilla of the University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila), during the 6th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, Pasay City.
Regional capacity building programs are important in empowering local researchers to find solutions to the endemic problems in the regions.
In an interview with Mr. Hermogenes “Jun” Allegreof Sagitsit Ratsada, a local radio program in Sorsogon, last September 4, 2012, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST), stressed that the Council and the Bicol Consortium for Health Research and Development (BCHRD) are committed to empower Bicolano health researchers through the conduct of capacity building programs. He said, “Ang talagang objective natin sa mga regional consortia ay magkaroon ng kapasidad ang mga consortia na gumawa ng magaganda at makabuluhang health research na magagamit di lang ng region kundi pati na rin sa bansa. (Our goal really is to build capacity in the regional consortia to produce high value researches that can be used locally and nationally.)”
Dr. Montoya said that only Bicolanos can address the problems in Bicol. Through high impact researches, Bicolano researches can influence local policymakers to create policies needed by the region. He cited Telehealth and lagundi cough remedy as among the many successful projects supported by PCHRD that made strong impact to the health of the Filipino people. Describing these projects as proudly made in the Philippines, he hoped that these would inspire Bicolano researchers to create and innovate.
“Ito pong lahat ay through Filipino talent and ingenuity. Tatak Filipino po ito! (These are all made through Filipino talent and ingenuity. These are certified-Pinoy!) Kung may problema sa region, sila rin ang gagawa ng paraan para maadress ang problema na yun, Hindi yung taga-labas. Magagawa lang natin yan kung may kapasidad tayo upang gumawa ng research (If the region has a problem, the people from the region themselves should find the solution. We can only do that if the region has the capacity to do research),” Dr. Montoya said.
Dr. Montoya called on all local researchers to work with PCHRD and BCHRD in strengthening the standard of health research in Bicol.
“Ang hinahangad lang namin ay sana sa pamamagitan nito ay magsimula na rin ang mga researcher sa Bicol na magresearch upang maiiangat natin ang antas ng health research sa region. (I hope that these projects will inspire our local researchersin Bicol to start their research and uplift the standard of health research in region.), said Dr. Montoya.”
Underlining the importance of participatory approach in health governance to ensure the achievement of Universal Health Care (UHC), Dr. Alberto Romualdez, President of the Culion Foundation Inc. and the former Secretary of the Department of Health, introduced the Health Secretary’s Cup and Health Talk Series during the 6th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) Week celebration.
UHC, or the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP), is a government mandate that aims to ensure affordable and quality health benefits for every Filipino by allocating adequate resources to health in terms of health human resources, health facilities, and health financing.