LOCAL governments can serve as the key to ensuring that health interventions are delivered to vulnerable Filipinos nationwide, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan cited the need for strategic national investments to promote human and social development in rebuilding a resilient, post-pandemic health sector.
However, Balisacan said, the national government faces resource constraints that prevent it from delivering health interventions nationwide. This was one of the lessons learned in the pandemic.
“We learned that there are limits to government resources and capabilities in delivering needed interventions to vulnerable sectors. Therefore, collaboration with local government units and partnerships with the private sectors and civil society is crucial,” Balisacan said.
Balisacan said the Philippines’ experience with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of key sectors in the economy, chief among these being health.
Thus, throughout the global crisis, the government had continuously evaluated and examined which measures worked and which ones did not.
Among the lessons learned, Balisacan identified the need to fast-track investments in early warning systems for health crises and emergencies, and the need for a whole-of-government approach towards rebuilding the country’s health sector.
Given this, the Philippine Development Plans (PDP) seeks to address these concerns including the slow progress seen in achieving childhood nutrition and immunization.
The PDP also intends to address the obstacles faced in the implementation of major health sector reforms — among others, the need for collaborative effort of all government agencies and instrumentalities in fulfilling these target outcomes.
“The PDP strategy framework for boosting health is built on the vision of a holistic approach to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequities where they exist, and achieve universal healthcare,” Balisacan said.
“The plan highlights the contribution of non-health government agencies and non-government health systems stakeholders to attain societal health objectives,” he added.
In a recent high-level meeting between the Philippine government and the World Bank on Health Sector Rebuilding, Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa presented the DOH’s multicomponent project proposal to achieve these objectives over the medium term.
To situate the government’s current priorities and strategies in rebuilding a better and more resilient post-Covid-19 health sector, Balisacan shared with World Bank officials the lessons that government learned since the pandemic struck.
“In the formulation of the PDP [Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028], we took into account the lessons learned from the past administration (especially from the experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic), global and regional trends over the medium term, our national and the global agenda for development, and our long-term vision embodied by the AmBisyon Natin 2040,” said Balisacan.
Balisacan also cited the evolving list of priority bills in the 19th Congress that are targeted to boost health in the country and are aligned with the strategies contained in the PDP.
This includes the bill on the Elimination of Trans Fatty Acids, the Establishment of a Medical Reserve Corps, the Establishment of Regional Specialty Centers, the creation of the National Disease Prevention Management Authority, and the creation of the Virology Institute of the Philippines.