WHO Western Pacific Region getting ready for universal health coverage by 2030!

Monday, 16 January 2017

IAPO member, Josefino de Guzman from Psoriasis Philippines, represented IAPO at WHO Western Pacific Region's first Technical Advisory Group meeting on Universal Health Coverage.


By Josefino de Guzman from Psoriasis Philippines 

No one must be left behind! Health is a human right! Health for all! These were some of the most persistent messages echoed in the WHO WPR First Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) that I attended at their Regional Headquarters in Manila Philippines in December 2016.

The three-day meeting and workshops saw many patient advocates and health experts from the WHO WPR exchange information about health care systems and their experiences of accessing health care within them, and how their countries were implementing UHC as a part of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 Goal 3.8.

I thought my participation would be limited to being just an observer, but I ended up participating as an equal in the discussions especially during the workshops. This reflects WHO’s commitment towards patient engagement. In one of the meetings, I underlined how important it is for a patient to know how to navigate their national health system in order to have a good access to treatment. I shared with them that it is not enough that we have certain health programs to treat disease; we must also make sure patients are aware of their existence. Having patient-centric approaches in promoting health services improves access.

The region has diverse health systems; they are intricate and reflect the cultural, social, religious and political diversity of the 37 Western Pacific nations from Australia to Mongolia- no single model can apply to all countries. The meeting emphasized that no matter how good the planning if the implementation is not as good, the delivery of the UHC will be ineffective in the Region.

The meeting also reflected that health service delivery is affected by fragmented health systems; local, regional and national health care provisions are all discordant. WHO’s framework on integrated and people-centred health care has proposed some strategies to address this important part of UHC. We all agreed that UHC needs a whole-of-society involvement and that patients' organizations had to make an important contribution as service-users; patient voice can add-value to the UHC. Our personal experiences of accessing health care services in our countries are important for service planning.

The meeting then concluded that the next steps were to continue to monitor UHC implementation in each country against the UHC plan and see how it impacts the quality and delivery of affordable health care services to the people. At the end of 2017, we can address the highlighted challenges at another reunion meeting.

The three-day meeting has provided a stage for each country to learn from regional best practice by comparing how each country has addressed the issues of access, quality, and safety within their existing health systems. It has created a platform to collaborate on the UHC initiatives and share evidence base. Patient voice will have a strong role.

Listening to the WHO WPR's long-term plans, it makes me happy as a patient that our interests are being highlighted and underlined by every government that participated in the three-day meeting.

As an observer, I was thankful for the opportunity given to us by WHO WPR to voice the patient sentiment on the need for effective data gathering and the creation of national patient registries to help governments in planning for the best health care needed by their people. The issue of tackling non-communicable diseases within the UHC and the SDG 2030 is an important health concern for sustainable health care and each Member State must be able to address this challenge.

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