The Philippines’ strong ranking in a recent study of health governance should attract more investment in research and development, although some reforms are still needed, health officials said.
In a recent study by the Brookings Institution “Private Sector Global Health Care R&D project,” the Philippines ranked eighth among countries with quality healthcare governance to create potential foreign investment opportunities in developing R&D.
Based in Washington DC, Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization that conducts in-depth social research to create new ideas and studies in specific fields with global impact.
In “Health Governance Capacity: Enhancing Private Sector Investment in Global Health,” the research examined the quality of healthcare governance of 18 low- and middle-income African and Asian countries, including the Philippines. Authors of the research study Darrell West, John Villasenor, and Jake Schneider said that good governance is a fundamental condition for global health investment. “It conditions the overall environment in which both public and private sector health investment takes place,” the study said.
The Philippines received an overall score of 69 percent, broken down into a 45 percent grade in terms of leadership and capacity, 60 percent in effective policy making and implementations, 85 percent in terms of regulations, 70 percent in infrastructure and financing, and 85 percent in health systems.
Dr. Eric Tayag, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) told The Manila Times that this is a great opportunity for the Philippines to bring out its best efforts in health research and development. It opens pipelines for foreign investment support and develops its health infrastructures towards progressive and competitive health care in worldwide perspective.
“The report posits having good health governance as a key element in pushing forward private sector engagement and investments in R & D, a necessary driver of health outcomes and then economic progress.
Health gains in the past century emanated from many private enterprise explorations with government exploiting their benefits,” Tayag said.
Despite the fact that the country had an unexpected low score in policies dimension, specifically in the indicator for immunization coverage (a score of 1 out of a possible 4 points), Tayag thought that the authors of the research had it wrong, or the standards were set too high for this indicator. But still, he expressed a positive view that the country is exerting its best effort to make nationwide campaigns on immunizations to fight certain diseases through effective vaccinations.
Philippine Medical Association (PMA) President Dr. Irineo Bernardo III claimed that the country is doing in-depth research in pharmacological products especially in developing molecules on the use of phytochemicals from plants with medicinal properties, since alternative approaches in the field of medicine are being considered more frequently. He suggested that this unique venture in medical sciences would boost the country’s image globally in using alternative medical interventions.
But Bernardo also said that the country still lacks competence, as it faces several challenges in finance, facilities, practices, and accreditations in the midst of progressing healthcare environment in South East Asia.
“We have the capability and resources to be competitive but there is a need to redesign our healthcare organization or system so that the ‘health leader’ will have an easier way of getting the ‘health care team’ into action and towards the attainment of the National Health Plan,” Bernardo toldThe Manila Times.
Local industries should still be protected with the reality that foreign investments in health research and development would enter the country, Bernardo added.
“Local investors should first be assured that they will enjoy the same treatment or opportunities granted to their foreign counterparts,” he stressed.
Challenges and opportunities for PH
The Philippines is still experiencing problems in terms of restrictive regulatory laws and licensure standards, which is why local investors are hesitant to invest in health care, Bernardo said, pointing out that only about four or five percent of the hospitals in the Philippines are accredited internationally.
“Politics is one of the reasons some investors are shying away from investing in some areas. Information technology is still wanting in some, if not many parts of the country,” Bernardo added.
But DOH Asec. Tayag is optimistic for the country’s potential to attract increased investments, despite the challenges of Philippine health care. He stressed it is paramount to seek these investors rather than waiting and just being passive recipients.
“Future projects should focus on cheaper technologies waiting to be tapped to address the country’s emerging threats like HIV, antimicrobial resistance, lifestyle diseases and disaster response,” Tayag said.
Public research agencies are important in assuring that the country is doing its best effort in research and services to the public. But private sectors also play a large role in giving appropriate finances as a source of investment in providing healthcare innovation, he added.
Medical science research in the Philippines would be on par with the world if the country’s medical industry would revisit the health system and institute, without delay, the needed changes to make the Philippines truly globally competitive, PMA President Bernardo asserted.