New health financing strategy seeks to reduce out-of-pocket health expenses

News release

Sixtieth Session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 21–25 September 2009, Hong Kong (China)

HONG KONG (China), 23 September 2009—The World Health Organization (WHO) today urged Member States to prioritize financial plans to ensure broader access to medical services, warning that delays would push millions of households to the brink of poverty.

"If health systems do not provide universal coverage and adequate financial protection, large numbers of households can be pushed into poverty both by ill-health and by paying out-of-pocket for health care," warned Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.

The Regional Committee for the Western Pacific endorsed the Health Financing Strategy for Asia and the Pacific (2010-2015). It calls for universal access to quality health services without excessive financial burdens. The new strategy updates the existing strategy on health care financing for 2006-2010 approved in 2005.

At that time, about 80 million people faced catastrophic health expenses and 50 million people were impoverished in Asia because of out-of-pocket payments associated with health services. The current economic recession threatens to further increase the vulnerability of this region where social spending and social safety net mechanisms are relatively weak. Out-of-pocket health spending in Asia is significantly higher than in other regions.

The strategy advocates sustained investment in health and further reductions in out-of-pocket payments—both necessary conditions to move towards universal coverage. It adds three new action areas to the earlier strategy, bringing the total to eight core areas.

  • Increasing investment and public spending on health
  • Improving aid effectiveness for health
  • Improving efficiency by rationalizing health expenditures
  • Increasing the use of prepayment and pooling
  • Improving provider payment methods
  • Strengthening safety-net mechanisms for the poor and vulnerable
  • Improving evidence and information for policy-makers
  • Improving monitoring and evaluation of health policies.

WHO pointed out that many health systems have invested heavily in curative services that benefit urban and wealthier people, but little on primary health care services that can be accessed by the poor and vulnerable.

For more information or interview requests, please call: Ms Marilu Lingad at Hong Kong mobile: +852 6689 5763
Philippine mobile: +63 908 8914532, email: lingadm@wpro.who.int Mr Peter Cordingley at Hong Kong mobile: +852 6349 2101
Philippine mobile: +63 918 963 0224, email: cordingleyp@wpro.who.int

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