PRESIDENT Aquino was asked on Saturday to allocate a good portion of the pork barrel to expand the country’s health-promotions programs and strengthen the preventive component of the health-care system to control the spread of non-communicable diseases in the Philippines.
In a statement, Ana Maria R. Nemenzo of WomanHealth and Kampanya Para sa Makataong Pamumuhay said the health sector has long been in need of attention in terms of funding.
Nemenzo said based on available data from the Department of Budget and Management, the 2014 budget for the Department of Health-National Center for Health Promotion (DOH-NCHP) amounted only to P165 million. “This is 0.21 percent of the total DOH budget of P80 billion.”
Nemenzo said strengthening the preventive component of the health-care system will address the problem brought about by the spread of non-communicable diseases but will reduce health-care costs in the long run.
She said the total recommended budget for health by the World Health Organization is 5 percent of the gross domestic product for developing nations, and the previously planned budget for financing health programs is P1 billion from “sin” tax revenues.
Irene Reyes, managing director of HealthJustice Philippines, for her part, said: “The government needs to understand that health promotion is affected by social determinants and that there is a need for coordinated actions that aims to change the social, environmental and economic conditions that have a negative impact on health.”
“One way to fund for HP is to allot a percentage of the different agencies’ budgets, in keeping with the concept of intersectoral collaboration and utilization of the whole of government. This is the perfect opportunity to push for proper funding for HP.”
The groups said no less than President Aquino, in his speech during the DOH’s 115th Anniversary on June 25, cited the importance of prevention rather than cure in saying “…ang tagumpay natin dapat ang batayan at sukatan ay ilan ang Pilipinong makakaiwas pumunta ng ospital dahil inaalagaan ang kanilang kalusugan. Mas maganda na ho sigurong maka-iwas sa sakit kaysa gamutin ang sakit…”
They lamented that despite such a policy pronouncement, most of the DOH’s budget is set aside for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., which mostly focuses on the curative aspect of health.
“Now is the time for health!” Jaime Galvez-Tan, president of Health Futures Foundation Inc. and a former health secretary, said.
“Health promotion needs careful attention and significant planning, and cannot be expected to happen overnight. Hopefully, the President pushes through with his concept of proper health, first and foremost prioritizing and strengthening the NCHP in terms of funding, research and capacity-building,” he said.