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PHL spends less on health care amid economic boom — PIDS


Philippine government spending on health care is short of the at least 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) despite above 7 percent economic growth in the past five quarters, a policy think-tank said Wednesday.
 
"We're currently about 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP, but WHO's standard is around 5 percent," Oscar Picazo, senior health research consultant at Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), told reporters at a briefing on a theme of “Making Health More Inclusive in a Growing Economy” in Makati City.
 
"This is despite an average growth of 7 percent in the last five quarters," he added.
 
On August 29, National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert said the Philippine GDP expanded by 7.5 percent in the second quarter, above the 6 to 7 percent growth goal this year, driven by a resilient services sector as well as robust manufacturing and construction activities. 
 
Government spending on health care is "quite low" as compared to other emerging countries which invest at least 6 to 7 percent of GDP in health, PIDS vice president Dr. Rafaelita Aldaba said. 

4.4% of GDP
 
In 2011, Brazil spent 8.9 percent of GDP on health, Cambodia at 5.7 percent of GDP, Vietnam at 6.8 percent, Chile at 7.5 percent, Ecuador at 7.3 percent, Iran at 6 percent, and Egypt at 6.1  percent.
 
Last June, NSCB said Philippine spending on health care improved by 13.2 percent to P431 billion in 2011 from P380.8 billion in 2010, citing the latest edition of the Philippine National Health Accounts.
 
As percentage of GDP, Philippine spending on health was equivalent to 4.4 percent in 2011 from 4.2 percent a year previous, in line with the Southeast Asian peers Singapore at 4.1 percent health, Thailand at 4.2 percent, and Malaysia at 4.6 percent, according to WHO data.
 
WHO country representative to the Philippines Julie Hall earlier said enormous investments in the health system and a consistent release of health statistics are needed.
 
Picazo said economic growth is not translating to better maternal and infant health and is not addressing disparity in health care utilization — the poor cannot access health care and there is disproportion in the number of hospitals, beds and healthcare workers compared with the growing population.
 
From 1990 to 2006, maternal mortality rate decreased from 209 per 1,000 live births (LB) to 162 per 1,000 LB but an increase to 221 per 1,000 LB was noted in 2011.
 
"The target is 52 [per 1,000 LB] by the end of MDG (Millennium Development Goal] in 2015, but we're at 221 in 2011," Picazo said.
 
"And even though infant mortality rate is declining, the decline is not as fast compared to regional peers," he added.
 
At risk
 
In 2011, infant mortality rate in the Philippines decreased by 61.6 percent but not as fast as Thailand at 78.9, Malaysia at 78.5 percent, Singapore at 82.5 percent and Cambodia at 69.8 percent.
 
In terms of healthcare utilization, Picazo said the poor who are more at risk of illness registered the lowest use of and access to hospital care.
 
Citing NSCB data, Picazo said most doctors, nurses and midwives are concentrated in Luzon — particularly in the Cordillera Administrative Region, National Capital Region, Regions I and II — where the poverty incidence are among the lowest nationwide.
 
He noted the employment rate of health professionals from 2003 to 2010 was at best flat, signifying a lack of health workers compared with a burgeoning population.
 
"The government must solve the problem on concentration of health professionals and employ more health workers," Picazo said.
 
2014 budget 
 
The 5 percent of GDP will be reached by the end of Health Secretary Enrique Ona's term as "he has been really successful in negotiating the increase in budget," said Dr. Irma Asuncion, Health Department director for National Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
 
"We're now undergoing negotiations with Congress for 2014 budget of at least P80 billion from around P44 billion this year," she said.
 
Asuncion noted the program will mostly allocate for "the preventive and promotive" health aspect while only a "small proportion will be for the curative."
 
Last July, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the Department of Health will receive P87.1 billion or the fifth largest share from the P2.268-trillion 2014 budget.
 
Abad noted next year's budget allocation is 45.5 percent higher than this year's P59.9 billion on program and will mainly cover PhilHealth premiums to the tune of P21.2 billion for indigent and poor families and P13.3 billion for its Health Facilities Enhancement Program. — VS, GMA News

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