Representing IAPO at WHO WPRO in Guam
Written by Karen Alparce-Villanueva, Communication and Policy Consultant for the Philippine Alliance of Patients Organizations (PAPO), who attended the WHO WPRO regional committee meeting in Guam on behalf of IAPO.
It was my first time to participate in a WHO regional meeting wearing a different hat – that of one representing more than 250 patients organizations in over 60 countries and numbering more than 365 million patients. The 66th WHO Western Pacific Regional Meeting Session was held 12-17 October at the island of Guam where warm smiles greeted us and the beautiful beaches beckoned to participants. Mr. K.P. Tsang, Governing Board Member of IAPO and myself, from the Philippine Alliance of Patients Organizations (PAPO), represented IAPO.
Everyone was encouraged to wear island casual but most participants donned their suits as was customary in the past meetings. The formal and strict protocol that characterized the meeting ensured there were no surprises. Everything had to be vetted and cleared and an efficient agenda was prepared. IAPO submitted interventions for two topics – Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems Strengthening, which were written statements distributed to the participants.
High interest in Universal Health Coverage
For this session, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) continued to generate a high level of interest and engagement from all the country representatives. Almost everyone had something to share or input in the draft framework since UHC will continue to be prominent in the Sustainable Development Goals.
The IAPO intervention reminded Member States of the need to ensure that patients and patients’ representatives are included within activities to take UHC forward. IAPO offered its Declaration on Patient-Centered Healthcare and Patient-Centered Principles on Universal Health Coverage. Among the countries that spoke, I was struck that only one country – Brunei Darussalam – articulated the need for patient-centered healthcare within the context of UHC. While such has been the practice in our country, we have not communicated the importance of that process. Moving forward, we need to strengthen the representation of patients’ groups in policy-making and dialogues and more importantly, communicate the value of engaging patients in the process.
Sustainable Development Goals
Another session that I found most interesting and helpful was the session on the Sustainable Development Goals in which Goal #3 was on Health. While at first glance, one might think that there was only one health goal, upon closer examination – there are actually 17 indicators. And when one thinks about the reality of the other social determinants of health, it only makes sense that the approach to health was one that should be more holistic and collaborative. As one of the speakers so rightly said, a country’s state of health is a consequence of the government’s agenda. Similar to our individual health status, we are a result of the decisions and the lifestyle we choose to adapt.
As with all other conferences, the meeting was an opportunity to meet new and old friends, exchange views and share best practices. Excellent programs are not always dependent on huge resources but on the passion, creativity and determination of people whose desire to serve the interests of patients is their driving force. And so KP, his guide-dog Deanna and I thank IAPO for this privilege and opportunity to represent the organization and sincerely hope that the advocacy for patient-centered healthcare continues.
Image one: IAPO representatives Karen Alparce-Villanueva and KP Tsang.
Image two: IAPO representatives with WHO WPRO Regional Director Dr. Shin Young-soo.