Friday, November 21, 2014

PH on target to achieving health-related MDGs but access to healthcare remains unequal—PIDS

Although the Philippines is on track in achieving many of the health- related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), inequities in accessibility, availability and affordability of health services across the country still exists.
Speaking at a regional forum on the Philippine Health Sector Performance in Cebu City, Dr. Celia Reyes, Senior Research Fellow of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies said the recent economic gains have not translated to better and equitable social outcomes, particularly for health status.

Using official data, Reyes and her team found that people from Luzon generally have better access to health services and facilities, thus, better health situation compared to their counterpart from Visayas and Mindanao.
“In terms of hospital beds to population ratio for example, only one-third of the provinces are able to meet the required one bed for every 1000 people. Most of these hospitals are located in the National Capital region (NCR),” Reyes pointed out.

Likewise, Reyes highlighted the uneven distribution of health labor force across the country.  For example, there are 28 doctors per 100 thousand population in NCR whereas there are only 12 per 100 thousand in Central Visayas.  In Bicol Region, the ratio is lower at 10 doctors per 100 thousand and even lower in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) at only 3 doctors per 100 thousand population. When it comes to health facilities, not all hospitals have x-ray and ultrasound machines. Hospitals in the NCR are more equipped compared to other regions. Aside from this, not all hospitals have complete basic emergency equipment. Only 56 percent of hospitals in NCR have complete basic emergency equipment while for the rest of the regions, less than half of hospitals have these facilities.

Access to health facilities translates to better health situation. For example, in NCR where people have better access to health services and facilities, health indicators such as infant mortality, maternal health, antenatal care, etc. are also better.

According to Reyes, these regional disparities need to be addressed to continue the gains that have been achieved in the health sector.  She noted that government should put more resources and capacity-building programs for regions that persistently trail behind in terms of health indicators.

Despite the regional disparities, Reyes noted improvements in the overall health status among regions from 2008 to 2013.

Looking at indicators like infant mortality rate, malnutrition, antenatal care, immunization, and birth delivery by health professional, Reyes stated that by 2011, the rates have gone down and have become slightly more equitable across regions.

“Regions are comparable to level of development of countries when it comes to health outcomes. For instance, in terms of birth delivery by health professional, the figures for Central Visayas are just slightly higher than that of Cambodia and Myanmar. In terms of antenatal care, figures for NCR are close to that of Singapore while for ARMM, performance in antenatal care is similar to that of Bangladesh,” Reyes explained.

Meanwhile, Reyes said the Philippines is likely to achieve health-related MDGs, particularly in reducing child mortality, and in combating malaria and tuberculosis. However, it would be difficult to for the country to achieve the target for maternal health and HIV-AIDS, she added.

"There has been no significant difference for the maternal mortality figures between 2006 and 2011 and given this progress, it could be very difficult for the country to achieve the goal by 2015. The indicators for HIV AIDS are also not favorable given the increasing number of reported cases," Reyes expounded.

In 2000, the Philippines together with other United Nations member-countries adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 which aims to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. Three of these goals are related to health:  reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Reyes’ presentation is part of a project by PIDS and the Department of Health (DOH) that looks into the government’s Kalusugang Pangkalahatan or Universal Health Care program, a component of the Health Sector Reform Agenda in 2010. It has three major components namely, financial risk protection, health facilities improvement and attainment of health-related MDGs.

Results and key findings of the PIDS-DOH research project will help policymakers steer the health system, monitor existing health policies and programs, and provide DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) basis for their future policies and programs.

The forum on Philippine Health Sector Performance was organized by PIDS in partnership with the DOH and the Philippine Information Agency Region VII.

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