PHL scores higher, at 47.6%, against global average of 40.2% in GHS index

Despite the criticisms on how the Philippine government is handling the measures to address the coronavirus pandemic, a welcome news is that the country scored 47.6 percent in overall readiness rating, or higher than the global average of 40.2 percent among 195 countries rated for the Global Health Standards (GHS) Index, getting the 53rd ranking.

This was reported by Dr. Raul V. Destura at the recent first virtual Annual Scientific Conference of the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP).

A DOST-NRCP vice president, Destura was behind the development of the first Philippine production of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) test kit, that showed the country’s readiness to coronavirus pandemic side by side with other countries.

Health workers take a blood sample from Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao for a Covid-19 test.

Countries weak in health security

Destura said the 2019 GHS Index show a global overall “disturbing average” score of 40.2, that leads to the finding that “national health security is fundamentally weak around the world.”

He said there is also “no country that is fully prepared” for the world’s most omnipresent risks: infectious disease outbreaks that can lead to international epidemics and pandemics, and every country has important gaps to address. In terms of biopreparedness, the figure below tells clearly that there are still nuances in biopreparedness that need to be understood.

The GHS Scoring has six categories: 1) Prevention, 2) Detection and Reporting, 3) Rapid Response, 4) Health System, 5) Compliance with International Norms, and 6) Risk Environment.

Philippines scores

Where does the Philippines stand in the GHS Scoring in terms of the six categories?

The country got 47.6 percent in overall readiness rating of the 100 perfect score, or 53rd ranking from 195 countries.

Notably, the Philippines scored 100 percent in data integration between human/animal/environmental health sectors; 91.2 percent in immunization; 83.3 percent in laboratory systems; 84.6 percent in communication infrastructure; and 87.5 percent for international commitments of the country, Destura reported

However, it got zero score in biosafety and dual-use research and culture of responsible science, linking public health and security authorities, communications with healthcare workers during a public health emergency and Joint External Evaluation and Performance of Veterinary Services.

The Philippines other scores:

  • Prevention: 38.5 percent (global average: 34.8 percent)
  • Detection and Reporting: 63.6 percent (global average: 41.9 percent)
  • Rapid Response: 43.8 percent (global average: 38.4 percent)
  • Health system, 38.2 percent (global average: 26.4 percent)
  • Compliance with International Norms, 49.8 percent (global average 48.5 percent)

* Risk Environment, 50.3 percent (global average: 55.0 percent)

Destura emphasized that global infectious disease emergencies is a recurring phenomenon, “it will not end with SARS CoV 2,” the cause of the Covid-19.

“The current pandemic taught us that the country can be cut-off from the rest of the world and vice-versa, therefore, in-country self-sustainable biopreparedness program is needed,” he said.

“Bioprepreparedness programs require analysis of what works around the world and why it will or will not work in our setting. But more importantly, is that the science and technology sector has to be involved ‘years’ [he pointed out] before the onset of a pandemic,” he added.

“Global infectious disease emergencies demand the attention and cooperation of the GloCal [global and local] community. As members of the community of science, the humanities, engineering and technology, we must strive to actively participate in the national and global effort to alleviate the impact of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease emergencies,” he pointed out.

Destura said this could be done “by building on existing local research strengths and growing international collaboration, providing excellence and innovation in the field of research, training health professionals and creating and sharing health knowledge.”

How the other countries scored

Accordingly, fewer than 7 percent of countries scored in the highest tier for the ability to prevent the emergence or release of pathogens, while only 19 percent of countries receive top marks for detection and reporting, Destura said.

There are also fewer than 5 percent of countries scored in the highest tier for the ability to rapidly respond to and mitigate the spread of an epidemic.

In terms of health system, the average score indicators is 26.4 of 100, making it the lowest-scoring category.

Further, less than half of countries have submitted Confidence-Building Measures under the Biological Weapons Convention in the past three years. It was an indication of their ability to adhere to important international norms and commitments related to biological threats, he said.

On risk environment, only 23 percent of countries score in the top tier for indicators related to their political system and government effectiveness.

‘Research for public good’

Destura is one of the country’s experts in the field of infectious diseases and aptly the resource person on the global scenario of health risks.

The conference was themed “Research for Public Good,” which exacts accountability and inclusivity in every research undertaken and that results should be used by anyone.

Destura said that infections that newly appeared in a population or have existed previously are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range and may be classified as: 1) newly emerging; 2) deliberately emerging and 3) re-emerging/resurging.

On why the Covid-19 happened at this time, he said it is due to several factors combined to make the ideal time for an emergence of infectious diseases, as follows: genetic and biologic flexibility of microbes; changes in the environment; breakdown in global public health measures; human behavior and activities; high-speed travel, and threat of terrorism.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, at a recent webinar, congratulated the country’s scientists for the country’s GHS scores, saying that this was the fruit of their continued innovation and research that have been helping the Philippines adapt to the scourge of the pandemic.

He noted that the test kit for Covid-19 that Destura developed was an innovation from the scientist’s original test kit for dengue. He lauded such kind of Filipinos’ talent for innovation.

Maria Elena A. Talingdan/S&T Media Service

Image Credits: UN FAO, Diocese of Cubao/CBCP News

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