Reflections from the WHO WPRO meeting

Friday, 31 October 2014

KP Tsang, IAPO Chair, and John Forman, from IAPO member NZ Organisation for Rare Disorders, attended the WHO Regional Committee meeting for Western Pacific from 13 to 17 October in Manila, Philippines.

John answered a few questions about the meeting.

In what ways did you represent IAPO at your WHO Regional Committee? 

In addition to the oral presentation on universal health coverage and the written submission on engagement with non-state actors, there were plenty of opportunities to meet others to discuss IAPO issues. These included:

  • Meeting one evening with KP Tsang and two representatives of the Philippine Society for Orphan Diseases to discuss policy, patient engagement and UHC in the Philippines and the region.
  • Discussion with Under-Secretary from Dept of Health, Teodoro Herbosa, who is also a surgeon, and he confirmed the importance of patient engagement in health services and policy.
  • I met a number of WHO regional office staff to discuss their roles. I also had a brief but useful discussion with the WHO Regional Director who confirmed the importance of patient input and participation, and how he valued IAPO’s role as a facilitator of this.
  • Other NGO contacts included representatives from Third World Network, WHO Watch, Independent Expert review Group, and International Pharma manufacturing group. I was able to discuss some policy issues with most of them, and in addition I had a number of general brief discussions with various country representatives.


What agendas were most relevant for IAPO?

Universal Healthcare was the big one. It is in fact the policy expression of the right to health expressed in the UN Declaration on human rights, in various international covenants, and in many state constitutions and laws. It is heartening to see some very good progress. For example, in recent years the Philippines had implemented a “sin tax” on tobacco and alcohol and used the funds for a massive extension of health services across the country, extending health insurance cover to an additional 17 million families (or 45 million people) to increase health coverage from just 51% of the population 4 years ago, to 82% today.

The rest of the programme was an eye-opener about the reality of healthcare in the region including… health access problems for many poor and isolated populations, and low health literacy throughout much of the region. Yet despite these huge challenges there was clearly a well-planned and systematic approach to improving outcomes across all of these, and some real gains and successes to celebrate.