It was a groundbreaking year for the Philippine health sector in 2019 following the passage of Republic Act 11223, more commonly known as the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act. Signed into law by former President Rodrigo Duterte, it guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare goods and services and protection against financial risk for all Filipino people.
While providing “immediate eligibility and access” to healthcare services to Filipino patients, the law’s passage also imposes an immediate demand from government healthcare services. Reasonably, the enactment of the UHC Act was a defining moment for the Department of Health (DOH) as the primary government agency responsible for the development of the country’s health sector.
The DOH began its transformation journey in 2009, with the crafting and cascading of the FOURmula One for Health Strategy. With the law instituting monumental reforms in the health sector, DOH adopted a strategic focus that aims to “Catalyze the Transformation of Local Health Systems to Province-wide and City-wide Health Systems.” Despite the limitations and restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the country’s principal health agency, along with passionate partners in health, stayed committed to bringing the promises of UHC into reality.
Here is an infographic on the breakthroughs of the DOH thus far in the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act:
In 2020, 58 local government units (LGUs) from 49 provinces signified their intent to become UHC Integration Sites (UHC-IS). As of July 2022, all 58 UHC-IS have achieved at least 70% of the Level 1 Key Result Areas of the Local Health Systems Maturity Level. Level 1 is the preparatory level for the committed LGUs. This year, an additional 13 LGUs have expressed their intent to become UHC-IS, bringing the total number to 71.
To help establish province- and city-wide health systems in UHC-IS, the DOH also identified 60 critical policies and operational guidelines, including National Health Insurance Program, Service Delivery, and Governance and Accountability, among others. The policies have since then been developed and issued, with only one remaining inter-agency policy still undergoing approval by other agencies.
Online learning modules were also developed to aid in the operationalization of the UHC Act at the local level and are now accessible to the public through the DOH Academy online platform. The UHC Implementer’s Course comprises 12 modules, including Local Health System Management Tools, Health Regulation and Affordability, and Health Information System.
Meanwhile, the DOH developed eight Health Promotion Playbooks to serve as ready-to-use tools for LGUs in implementing health promotion interventions and to assist the operationalization of healthy settings toward universal health care at the local level. Playbooks on Diet and Physical Activity, Environmental Health, Immunization, Substance Use, Mental Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Violence and Injury Prevention were developed in 2021 and piloted in seven provinces.
Ultimately, to ensure that strategic initiatives are well-funded, a prioritization matrix was developed where programs related to the implementation of the UHC Act, COVID-19 response, and Health System Resilience come first in budget development.
While the law has brought the country closer to providing universal healthcare for all Filipinos, there is still a long way to go. To further strengthen UHC Integration, the DOH aims to institute policies and strategies to enable the private sector and civil society to form or participate in healthcare provider networks. Technical assistance packages are also intended to cascade information and competencies for the UHC-IS. And guided by the principles of good governance and performance accountability, the DOH hopes to shuttle the Filipino people toward being the healthiest in Southeast Asia by 2022.
Eager to embody your role towards a #HealthyPilipinas? The Institute for Solidarity in Asia offers its Governance Boot Camp – Master Class for Hospitals that aims to tackle the highlights and challenges of implementing the PGS in the health sector. Be sure to join this much-awaited workshop next year! For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Kristine Roraldo at [email protected]