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Ubial outlines health priorities

INCOMING Health Secretary Jean Paulyn Rusell-Ubial said she will review the Department of Health’s “distorted” health expenditures which resulted in the failure to implement an ideal health insurance program.

“But the framework is already there, how we can actually help the majority of the Filipinos to access quality health services,” Ubial clarified in an interview over GMA 7 on Thursday.

She said that since the focus between hospitals and public health is divided, the poorest Filipinos are not sufficiently reached by the DoH.

Ubial said she has discussed with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte her vision to provide quality health care to the poorest Filipinos by realigning health expenditures.

For one, she said they are looking at how to provide annual mandatory medical check-ups for 20-million poor Filipinos. “We see this as a way for them to be closer to our services,” said the new Health secretary.

At the same time, Ubial said they would push for higher health spending in order to better cater to the needs of the Filipino people and vowed to use her expertise as a public health official to prioritize primary health care.

“Before, the focus was on hospitals. But because I’m a public health official, I will prioritize primary care, preventive, promotive services. Our dictum will be ‘prevention is better than cure.’’’

She said increasing health spending as a portion of the country’s gross domestic product is needed for the DoH leadership to really focus on the poorest of the poor Filipinos.

During the the past several years, she said our health expenditure was  at 2.2 percent of GDP during the early part of 2000 and is now at about 4.5 percent of GDP.

But the World Health Organization recommends that countries provide at least 5 percent of its GDP for health spending.

Compared to other countries, she said the Philippines is actually underspending in the health sector.

She pointed out that the current spending of the Philippines per capita, which is pegged at $76 per capita, is in no way near with the United States’ $8,600 per capita and Thailand’s $300 per capita.

“‘Ours is way below what countries of the same economic status are actually spending on health. So our investment in health has been lacking,” she said.

Duterte earlier said he will allocate the earnings of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), which run at billions of pesos, for health services and education.

Topics: DOH , health priorities , distorted , Jean Ubial
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