“Public Health is the Responsibility of All!”

"Public Health is the Responsibility of All", an info-art exhibit available for viewing until September 10, 2015.

“Public Health is the Responsibility of All”, an info-art exhibit available for viewing until September 10, 2015.

Speech delivered on behalf of ABI-Health at the Info-Art Exhibit launch organized by AngNars Partylist and Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI-Health Cluster) last September 7, 2015 at the North Wing Lobby, House of Representatives, Q.C.

For years, the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) under the wings of Social Watch Philippines have been monitoring and participating in the budget development of five government agencies, those that affect people’s lives more than the rest. These are the:

  • Department of Education (DepEd) through the ABI-Education Cluster
  • Department of Health (DoH) through the ABI-Health Cluster
  • Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Agriculture Cluster
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Environment Cluster
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through the Social Protection Cluster

On ABI-Health Cluster’s work on monitoring, developing alternative budgets and engaging the DoH in various health issues (beyond the budget), WE, the 70+ member organizations have learned much from our years of engagement – from proposing new programs, line-item budget increase or decrease to addressing emerging issues related to health.

We believe that we have gained, small and big alike, from our untiring engagement. Proof of which are the passage of laws such as the SIN Tax and the Reproductive Health Law, increase in health investments through the years and most importantly, the mobilisation of people around the issue of health (from a small number of members to around 70+ member organizations today).

Despite these so-called engagement victories, we in ABI-Health along with our member grassroot organizations want more victories, and are striving to work on improvements. There is always room for more because challenges facing our health today are increasing.

While increases in investments for health are a welcome development (from PhP24 billion in 2010 to PhP124 billion in 2016), ABI-Health does not stop at just being it, an increase in the budget (more funds for health). ABI-Health and the people want to have a SAY where the additional funds should go.

We may have these much funds, however, the minimum indicators for health reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – hunger and poverty, maternal deaths – are still unlikely to be achieved.

What does this tells us?

Clearly, our interventions including that of the government are not enough:

  • Vaccination Programs
  • Social Protection/Health Insurance
  • Hospital and Health Facility Enhancement

While these may be important programs for disease prevention and control, they do not address the predisposing conditions, which shapes and defines health outcomes. To borrow a quotation from the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health (WHO-CSDH):

World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health

                                        World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health

Our health system today is so used to managing and treating disease-based risks but often forget the risks outside the realm of the germ theory.

We do disease-based prevention and control but who takes care of “primordial prevention” – preventing people from getting expose to the risk factors themselves, which are brought about by the conditions in which each one of us live and work.

Therefore to be true to the definition of HEALTH – “complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” and the RIGHT TO HIGHEST ATTAINABLE STANDARD OF HEALTH that we have, our government committed to, IT IS JUST RIGHT THAT ALL OF US COMMIT TO ADDRESS THE SDH and demand government to do the same thing; to look at health (people’s health) holistically.

The money/funds for health may still be limited but our current resources are enough to be mobilised towards this direction.

The operative terms are “integrativeness and collaboration” both inter and intra-sectoral.

As for ABI-Health, we have followed the footsteps of the ABI Environment Cluster and began looking at health investments of government across agencies, beyond the DoH. If there is climate change-tagging, we did a health-tagging in consideration to new challenges (i.e. climate change, urban health, migration, etc.) compounding the already existing health concerns.

In our first attempt at a whole health budget approach, ABI Health looks at the budgets of DA and other related agencies addressing food and nutrition, FROM FARM TO PLATE; agencies related to water and sanitation, FROM SOURCE TO TAP WATER; and agencies related to infrastructure, occupational and environmental conditions, FROM ROAD TO SAFETY.

This is on top of the monitoring and alternative budget development we are currently doing for the DoH emphasising more on SYSTEMS approach rather than the fragmented way of looking at disease prevention and control programs. Particularly, we look at:

  • Health Human Resource
  • Access to Medicine and Health Technologies
  • Health Financing
  • Health Promotion (including access to health-related education and information)
  • Health Services (including Mental Health and Oral Hygiene)
  • Soon: Health Research because we want evidence-based policy-making as defined by multi-stakeholders especially the people themselves who are primarily affected.

On the backdrop of these ABI-Health whole budget initiative are also the various international updates ongoing such as the ASEAN integration and the APEC (particularly the Healthy Asia Pacific 2020 Roadmap), which will greatly affect our health system.

This info-art exhibit, with the theme, “Public Health is the Responsibility of All,” a mixed media artwork exhibition is ABI Health’s way of showing and illustrating that health is my responsibility, your responsibility and the whole government’s responsibility and not by the DoH alone. However for health-seeking behaviour to continuously develop, a healthy environment should be in place.

Unless we want our health system to continue becoming a HOSPITAL and SPECIALIST-CENTRIC system, as described by WHO in its Special Report on Primary Health Care , “Now More than Ever” in 2008, we should address SDH once and for all. This hospital-centrism has become a growing and even an established trend already.

Starting September 7th until the 10th (Thursday), we welcome you to view our info-art exhibition and together learn with us as we traverse the complex trail of public health and discuss ways on how to best address both new and existing health concerns and challenges of today.

Our exhibit guides will be available during viewing (Congress) hours for your comments, inquiries and suggestions.

For all of us to partake on the menu we want, all of us should be on the table

Thank you very much!

2 Responses to “Public Health is the Responsibility of All!”

  1. Gilbert says:

    Public Health is the responsibility of all…indeed…

  2. Paolo U says:

    I do think that it is a responsibility of all, but I do believe that we should do more since it is our health that we are talking about. The governments are always there, but our health is more of our responsibility to ourselves and not to others. Just my two cents.

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