Wanted: Presidential Aspirant with Real Health Agenda

Media Release
26 April 2010

Candidates seeking the highest post in the land should have a clear-cut, pro-people health agenda. Otherwise, they are no different from the current dispensation from which they are all trying so hard to distance themselves.

According to Health Alliance for Democracy, all of the presidentiables still have to articulate their respective health agenda, a measure of any relevant platform.

“Addressing the worsening state of the people’s health is one of the biggest challenges facing the next administration,” said Dr. Darby Santiago, HEAD chairperson. “Sadly, world-class ang pagkakulelat ng Pilipinas sa kalusugan (The Philippines is world-class in being the last in health).”

Of the 193 countries monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2006, the country ranked 160th in terms of general government expenditure on health as percentage of total expenditure on health, 162nd in terms of general government expenditure on health as percentage of total government expenditure, and 175th in total expenditure on health as percentage of gross domestic product (GNP).

Even in basic indicators like Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), the Philippines has some of the worst in Southeast Asia.

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“Our MMR is 170 per 100 000 live births, compared to 44 of Thailand and 41 of Malaysia. Our IMR is 29 per 1000 live births, compared to 24 of Thailand and 8 of Malaysia,” added Dr. Santiago. “These two indicators reflect both the deteriorating healthcare system and the moribund socio-political system that engenders it.”

As regards health human resource, the Philippines has been the number 1 exporter of nurses and number 2 exporter of doctors in the world for decades. Yet hundreds of hospitals have closed down throughout the country due to the lack of health personnel, with hundreds more on the brink of closure. Health workers working in rural communities are also subjected to various forms of harassment by the State, including arbitrary arrests like the Morong 43.

“Health is a right that continues to be denied of Filipinos. Unfortunately, many of the presidential candidates, especially the leading ones, are content with motherhood statements or just one or two specific health issues.”

“Our people deserve more than just talk of building more hospitals or boasts of making drug prices cheaper or promises Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) coverage for all,” said Dr. Santiago. “Such small thinking reveals a myopic view of health, good only for election purposes. It bares only the insincerity of the candidates.”

“Instead, these presidentiables should show that they have a clear understanding of factors affecting health and be committed enough to implement the necessary changes. Otherwise, this coming elections do not offer any meaningful break from the current health policies of the Arroyo regime that have become a burden on the people.”

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera

Dr. Darby S. Santiago

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