Monday, August 13, 2012

[Vital Signs Column] The Road to Universal Health Care

The DOH Secretary's Cup for
Universal Health Care

Vital Signs
By: Alvin Cloyd Dakis, RN
August 01-15, 2012 Issue

I was live tweeting during the launch of the Universal Health Care "Secretary's Cup" at the Department of Health last July 25 and I was thinking how would young people appreciate this and how would they even care to make this goal happen? I was listening and tweeting intently but partly wondering as well.

In all honesty, many people of my age, the 20s, would care less or would not even care about this. If asked, they wouldn't even have any single hint of what "Universal Health Care" means. It is for this reason, our nurses partnered with the Department of Health to create a 7-month campaign to make Universal Health Care known to people nation-wide to professionals, students, and to the communities. 

This is pretty timely especially that President Aquino himself mentioned Universal Health Care in his very recent SONA. He gave different figures of development in health such as 85% of Filipinos are now covered by PhilHealth and 5.2M of the poorest families can now avail of all the PhilHealth benefits. He also did mention about the RNHEALS (Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Service) program where the government deployed more than 30,000 nurses to the communities and some to government retained hospitals.

But despite the President saying many achievements of his Healthcare Reform Agenda, there is still many work to be done and issues to address. Issues in the diaspora of health professionals, the continuing debates on the Reproductive Health Bill, the effective use of PhilHealth funds, improvement of health facilities and a lot more. Those with dissenting opinions would not be much impressed with the SONA of the President.

That is why former DOH Secretary Alberto Romualdez and the team from UP-National Institutes of Health called Universal Health Care Study Group pushed for the Secretary's Cup to increase information dissemination to different groups of people and to help correct misinformation. According to Secretary Enrique Ona, health care is not just the problem of DOH, but the whole country.

The Secretary's Cup will start this August 2012 and will end in February 2013. Each month will be dedicated to the 6 building blocks of Universal Health Care: Governance, Financing, Regulation, Service Delivery, Information Technology and Human Resources. The 7th month will be allocated for the consolidation of all the past 6 months of events for each building blocks.

Each month there will be series of events to promote each building block. Every month will be opened by a health talk from a former DOH Secretary. The talk will be in three parts: the role of the specific building block to UHC as a whole, the challenges and possible solutions in reforming that building block and lastly the issues revolving that building block.

There will also be community Town Hall Meetings (THMs) which will be done in many key areas of the country. Our group is tasked to do this through our local chapters nationwide. THMs are simple open dialogue event where people from the community will gather to discuss a topic that will be presented to them. THMs are important because after all these meetings, we shall be able to make some reports and recommendations for policies that DOH will create or review.

Then we will also be having our first national collegiate debate for health which will be participated by 50 colleges and universities nationwide. This debate competition will highlight key issues affecting Universal Health Care. The debate championship will be held in Manila in February as well.

The launch and press conference was attended by former DOH Secretaries Alberto Romualdez, Jaime Galvez-Tan, Francisco Duque III, Esperanza Cabral and current health chief Enrique Ona. I am hoping that this rigid campaign for Universal Health Care will truly open discussions and generate meaningful data from the ground that could be used to influence DOH's policies in the future.

RH Bill's time is now
During the recent State of the Nation Address of President Aquino, he once again postured his support on 'Responsible Parenthood' which many, as well as the proponents of the RH Bill believes the President refers to the controversial Reproductive Health Bills in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

This pronouncement earned the President a standing ovation from the bill's main proponent & author, Albay representative Edcel Lagman. This also earned him the loudest cheers from the crowd for the entire duration of his speech. 

RH Bill supporters believe that this coming August 7, is the time to end all debates for the measure so that it could now be voted. As a staunch supporter of the RH Bill, I ask all legislators to please think of your constituencies and be their voice in the halls of Congress. That is the main reason why you are there, as their Representatives. Please do not be absent during that day and exercise your power to vote. Your vote will be historical.

For your comments and suggestions, email me at

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