Medicine Cabinet


Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) is commemorated on Dec. 12 of every year. Spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), the annual observance aims to celebrate the progress towards health for all and raise awareness on the need for strong and resilient health systems in achieving universal health coverage.

For UHC Day 2023, the WHO seeks to revitalize commitments towards accelerating UHC as countries recover from the devastating economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency noted that countries in the Western Pacific Region have made significant progress on the UHC service coverage index, which measures population coverage of essential health services based on tracer interventions that include reproductive, maternal, child health, infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases and service capacity and access.

This year’s UHC Day theme is “Health for All: Time for Action,” emphasizing the need for immediate and tangible steps in creating the world we want. It calls for reflection on a decade of progress, challenges, and opportunities in advancing UHC. The campaign urges leaders to enact policies that guarantee equitable access to essential health services without financial hardship. It will also build on the momentum and outcome from the second United Nations High-Level Meeting on UHC in September 2023 — a renewed action-oriented political commitment that will refocus political attention and financial investments on accelerating progress.

While the index increased from 51 to 80 between 2000 to 2019, financial protection in the Region worsened during the same period as more households face catastrophic health expenditures or out-of-pocket payments above what they can afford. In 2000, one in 10 families faced catastrophic health expenditures in the Western Pacific. Today, one in five families cannot afford care. Across and within countries, persisting inequities in service coverage and financial hardship remain, which were further exacerbated by the pandemic, the WHO stated.

The Universal Healthcare Act is the first legislation of its type in the Western Pacific Region. The landmark law automatically enrolls all Filipino citizens in the National Health Insurance Program and prescribes complementary reforms in the health system. When fully implemented, it will give Filipinos access to the full continuum of health services they need, while protecting them from enduring financial hardship as a result.

The biopharmaceutical industry supports the WHO’s call for governments to “prioritize investments in health, and implement effective policies to protect the poorest and most vulnerable” to achieve universal health coverage for all people and reduce catastrophic health spending.

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), representing the research-based pharmaceutical industry in the country, commits to continue working with the government for the full implementation of the UHC Act and the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) that both have provisions to make healthcare and medicines more accessible.

PHAP recommends that to reduce private individual out-of-pocket spending, there is a need to increase public health spending and embed access to medicine programs at all levels of care. When these are employed by governments, private share in medicine spending is reduced to below 50%. Examples of these countries with reduced private share in medicines are Australia at 47%, Malaysia at 46%, South Korea at 42%, the United Kingdom at 41%, New Zealand at 32%, and Thailand at just 9%.

The implementation of medicine access strategies such as pooled procurement, introduction of outpatient drug benefit packages, and the use of value-based and risk-sharing agreements can be enabled by having increased and dedicated funding for medicines.

The innovative pharmaceutical industry also stands with the government and all key stakeholders in ensuring the full implementation of the UHC Act so that no Filipino is left behind in terms of access to health services and financial protection. As a key member of the UHC2030 Private Sector Constituency (PSC), we are strongly supportive of the PSC statement on private sector commitments drawing from the Action Agenda. The Action Agenda is a set of action-oriented policy recommendations aimed at country leaders to strengthen resilient and equitable health systems, advance universal health coverage and health security, and deliver health for all by 2030.

In line with the UHC2030 PSC statement, the industry is committed to incorporate UHC principles, including to leave no one behind, into our business; deliver innovations that respond to the needs of all people including underserved populations, and make these safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable. There is also commitment to help strengthen the health workforce, responding to local context, priorities and needs; contribute to efforts to raise the finance available for UHC; and champion and engage in multi-stakeholder policy dialogues that advance UHC.


Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). PHAP represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are in the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos.