To presidential candidates: What about health promotion?

ITERATING lines from one presidential candidate during the PiliPinas Debates 2016, “Sa PhilHealth, libre ang hospitalization sa lahat ng public hospitals.”

In other words, it implies that with PhilHealth, being sick needs not be worrisome because the government guarantees free medical and nursing care consistent to the provisions of the 1987 Constitution. While there is nothing inherently wrong in this honey-sweet promise, these candidates failed to see health in a macro perspective.

They had been consistent in addressing health problems in the country at the curative or tertiary level of healthcare. Meaning, health policy, for any of these future head of the state, is aimed at providing solutions by ensuring a sickbed is waiting to receive a Filipino patient with life-threatening conditions and preferably belonging to the lowest socio-demographics.

What this implies sociologically is of interest to health program planners, managers and health professionals.

First, by targeting the tertiary or curative levels is actually taking its toll more on the national budget than it would if healthcare is aimed at the primary level, which is concerned with the Promotive and Preventive aspects of Healthcare.

Statistics have shown from the latest National Health Situationer that 75 percent of all Filipinos seeking medical care have diseases that are in the advanced stages of morbidity and are at the verge of mortality. They are those patients who are hooked to mechanical ventilators which breathe for them; cardiac monitors to determine electrical activity of the heart; multiple IV fluids and the likes. In totality, they require round-the-clock critical care and are confined in tertiary-level or specialty public hospitals, which can only accommodate a limited number of patients to begin with.

Therefore, it can be inferred that curatives and rehabilitatives are costly for obvious reasons.

Second, the rise in Infectious diseases is reflective of where our country is in the continuum of poverty and development.

In our case, most actually are infectious or communicable by nature. In fact, the recent data from DOH claim that the first few top causes of morbidity and mortality in the country are: heart problems, pneumonia, dengue, tuberculosis, diseases of the respiratory system, diabetes, and kidney diseases.

By Epidemiologic Shift theory, it is said that a Nation that is in an advanced and stable state of development moves from high incidence of Infectious diseases to lifestyle-related or elderly sicknesses. This is further supported by the low mortality and morbidity rates of Japan, America and European nations that are due to communicable causes.

Third, Promoting Health and Preventing Disease and Illness are always often overlooked or neglected in our country. What makes this even ironic is the fact that Sec 15, Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides, “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

Meaning, it is an inherent right of every Filipino to be informed not only about treatment but most importantly, how to prevent getting sick in the first place.

Prevention is the key theme in the Primary level of healthcare in the country. By such, it means public health education and vaccinations and immunizations that should be free of charge.

The primary level is best represented by health centers, rural health units and puericulture centers and are manned by physicians, nurses and midwives. Unfortunately, these structures are often neglected, incomplete or are unmanned due to staffing problems.

With patients swelling in the tertiary or specialty hospitals, strengthening the Primary level may significantly reduce the heavy patient workload in medical centers and regional hospitals.

In fact, in the USA, Australia and Europe, to name a few, they have “Wellness Hospitals,” wherein patients are not sick but are there to receive primary level of care such as vaccinations, screenings and preventive medical interventions. By doing so, these patients will no longer reach the advanced stage of illness which is more costly.

Fourth, while the Presidential Candidates are so engaged at addressing Economic development, they forgot the fundamental concept that the status of health is also an indicator or can be used as a unit of development.

For instance, there were no mention of the status of MDGs which was supposedly a measure of development although it has already expired its period last 2015.

Fifth, there was no clear cut definition as to how the sustain the alleged “free hospitalization” promises to the poor and needy.

WHO has prescribed to member countries spending 5 percent of the GNP to finance the health of their nations.

Sadly, current statistics claim that only 3.5 percent has been used for the past three administrations or Presidencies that the Philippines has ever had.

This implies that our country has not exhausted all what is due (5 percent of GNP) in order to finance the health needs of the country in terms of infrastructure (hospitals and clinics); manpower (health professionals) and health service packages/ programs.

During the last PiliPinas Debates 2016, which is a debate series administered by the Commission on Elections to provide venue for the Presidential Candidates to stage their platforms with the assistance of broadcast media partners last Sunday, April 24, 2016, candidates had mouths as fierce as a lion; thoughts that run as fast as a speeding cheetah; and ideas powered by public interest and acceptance.

For who would want to contest the pleasure of the public, whose voting powers are much coveted by these competing President – ‘wannabes’ ?

Central to the theme of these Presidential Candidates were addressing contemporary social issues confronting the Filipino nation: corruption, poverty and unemployment.

Clearly, the health of the nation mirrors economic development. But did anyone ever give attention to health promotion at the macro-sociological level?

Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com


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