PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona) mentions the creation of a National Disease Management body, suggesting that Congress look into it to avoid redundancy in the functions of the Department of Health (DOH). This is a much welcome move.
Under the current DOH setup, the agency has at least two main bodies that play a central role in disease management, namely, the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau and the Epidemiology Bureau. The DOH oversees the entire health system, including hospitals, health facilities, pharmaceuticals, blood centers, to name a few. A cursory look at its organizational structure gives one the impression that it has just too many in its hands.
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted just how overwhelming the responsibility of managing a health emergency could be. As if the workload of re-invigorating immunization in the country and the sudden return of poliomyelitis cases aren’t enough, the pandemic struck hard at the core of our health care system, highlighting just how limited our resources are for sudden surge of cases.
It is in that vein that we concur to the President’s plan of a separate government agency to look into disease management. We understand that its raison d’etre goes straight to the lessons we learned in this pandemic.
The Global Health Security (GHS) Index in 2019 saw the Philippines scoring only 47.6 percent. It’s way behind some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, namely, Thailand (73.2), South Korea (70.2), Malaysia (60), and Singapore (58.7). Vietnam (49.1), scored slightly lower than the Philippines, but it had reportedly fared well in its handling of the pandemic.
The GHS Index comprehensively evaluates the health security of nations, looking at key factors in prevention, detection and reporting, rapid response, health system, compliance with global norms and risk environment. Simply, it measures just how prepared countries are in the event of health emergencies.
The GHS Index, though, found a generally unprepared global environment in the face of any biological crisis. The world index scored at 50 percent. And even if a country ranks high, such as the US at 83.5 percent, there is no assurance it will do well. Other factors certainly go into play.
But the President’s plan for a separate disease management body could be the perfect response to this pandemic, if only to save lives and economy in the much cheaper strategy of prevention and planning.