WHO: Basic health services lacking in PH, Western Pacific

WHO: Basic health services lacking in PH, Western Pacific

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:40 AM April 08, 2024

Basic health services

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As countries marked World Health Day on Sunday, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged governments “to work together to fully realize people’s right to health,” as it noted that almost 800 million people in the Western Pacific region, including the Philippines, do not have full access to basic health services.

Citing its recent analysis, WHO said that two in five people—equivalent to 782  million of the region’s 1.9  billion—still cannot avail themselves of at least one essential health service, such as immunization, pregnancy and newborn care, as well as treatments for communicable and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).


In a press briefing in Manila, WHO Western Pacific regional director Dr. Saia Ma’u Piukala said: “Every mother and baby deserves quality pregnancy and newborn care. Every child is entitled to lifesaving vaccines. Every person who has an infection like tuberculosis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or a noncommunicable disease like diabetes or high blood pressure, should have access to diagnosis, treatment and care,” he added.


Even for those with access to health care, the high cost may lead middle-income families to sink into debt and poverty.

‘Unreasonable price’

According to WHO, one in five people in the Western Pacific is facing catastrophic health-care spending, or allocating at least 10 percent of their income for health-care services.

“No one should have to pay an unreasonable price for that care—or, worse be forced to choose between getting the health care they need or feeding, housing and educating their family. But this is the reality for too many people today,” Piukala said.

The right to health has been WHO’s focus since it was founded on April 7, 1948, with the Philippines among the founding members.

That same year, the right to health was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognized “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” of a person and their family as an “equal and inalienable” right for all.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution enshrines the right to health as a matter of state policy, decreeing that the state shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development.


In 2019, the country enacted the landmark Universal Health Care Act, which seeks to ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services and are protected against financial risk.

Under the law, all Filipinos—regardless of whether or not they pay contributions—are automatically enrolled in the National Health Insurance Program, which is implemented by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

Beyond health services

“The right to health does not stop at health services. It also requires governments and their partners to provide other basic conditions for a healthy life,” Piukala said. “This includes equitable access to safe water, clean air, nutritious food, adequate housing, quality education, decent working conditions, and freedom from discrimination.”

“[But] while progress has been made in many of these areas, we are a long way from where we need to be,” he noted.

According to Piukala, continued limited access to affordable and nutritious food, and increasingly polluted environments across the region are contributing to a rise in NCDs such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Based on WHO data, one in four children over the age of 5 and two in five adults in the Western Pacific region are overweight or obese.

Nine of the 10 countries in the world with the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity are located in the region, with diet-related NCDs such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease the leading causes of disability and early deaths.

Experts warned that by 2048, an estimated 21 million people in the Western Pacific are expected to die each year from NCDs, accounting for nine out of 10 deaths in the region. Health services to prevent and treat these diseases, however, are not keeping up with the deadly trend.

In the Philippines, ischemic heart disease has been the top killer, accounting for 19 percent of deaths last year. It was followed by other NCDs such as neoplasms (cancer) and cerebrovascular diseases (both 10.6 percent).

“The good news is, this is all preventable. With political will and the necessary investments, all of these problems can be turned around,” Piukala said.

Bucas centers

The Marcos administration, in its goal to improve access to primary health care, earlier announced that it would set up 28 Bagong Urgent Care and Ambulatory Service (Bucas) centers nationwide to serve the 28 million poorest Filipinos by 2028. The first Bucas center was opened by the Department of Health (DOH) on March 6 in Sto. Tomas, Pampanga province, which is hosted by the Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital.

READ: 400M lack access to basic health services, says WHO-World Bank report

Equipped with laboratories with comprehensive diagnostic capabilities, it offers general surgery, oral-maxillofacial surgery, otorhinolaryngologic surgery, and reproductive health services.

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On April 1, DOH officials led the groundbreaking of another Bucas center in Tubao, a fourth-class municipality in La Union province. It will be the first one in the Ilocos region. INQ

TAGS: Health, WHO, World Health Organization (WHO)

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