Philippine Nat’l Health Research System

On An Act Institutionalizing the Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS)

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Senate session
29 January 2013

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues,

It is my privilege to rise before you today to sponsor Senate Bill No. 3399, “An Act Institutionalizing the Philippine National Health Research System, Establishing the Philippine National Health Research Fund Providing for its Administration and For Other Purposes.”

New medical treatments and cures are made possible by health research and the active role of researchers in this field. Behind every discovery are thousands of hardworking people who are dedicated to advancing health care delivery and enhancing our quality of life. Developments in medical research and public health have provided us with an arsenal of intelligence, diagnostic techniques, preventive strategies and pharmaceuticals to aid our frontliners in the battle against disease.

Our own world-class health researchers have produced inspiring breakthroughs and innovations in health and medicine that are making lives better for Filipinos everyday. These have led to a greater understanding of prevalent diseases and have thus resulted in more timely and responsive policies, improved health services, and adequate technologies for diagnostics and treatment. [1]

For example, the Philippines is now self-sufficient in diagnosing dengue virus infections thanks to chemical reagents developed by the St. Luke’s Dengue Research Program. [2]

The multi-disciplinary approach employed by the Malaria Study Group of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has resulted in a dramatic reduction of malaria in Morong to very low – almost nil – levels. [3]

The Liver Study Group of the University of the Philippines Manila produced the first comprehensive profile of hepatitis B in the country, and led to massive improvements in the early detection and prevention of the disease. [4]

These are but a few of very many examples illustrating how painstaking research and documentation lay down the necessary foundation for adequately addressing public health concerns. However, a paradigm shift is required in order to maximize its full potential. A systematic approach should be adopted into the traditional way of conducting research. Individual research will be futile if it only circles around a particular problem, and not actually solving it.

There is a need to prevent unnecessary and unscientific duplication, and a need to ensure that research outputs are well-documented and accessible to stakeholders. Methodologies must be socially and scientifically acceptable, and priority areas should be clearly defined. These are possible if we adopt a health research system approach.

Mr. President, an investment in health research is an investment in our people and our future. Currently, health research expenditure in the country averages only 0.03 percent of national health expenditure – far below the World Health Organization’s recommended 2 percent. [5]

Further, our total expenditure on research and development is even worse at only 0.11 percent of GDP, according to the latest available data of the World Bank (2007). Compared to Singapore’s 2.37 percent expenditure and even Thailand’s 0.21 percent, we are lagging far behind our ASEAN neighbors. [6]

Mr. President, we can transform this sad reality if we enact the PNHRS bill into law. Our Constitution makes it clear that “The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost.” The creation of a Philippine National Health Research System is one such approach. It will institutionalize the existing strategy in identifying research priorities and in the actual conduct of research, such that we can maximize our limited resources for the benefit of the majority, as well as meet – or even surpass – international benchmarks in terms of health statistics.

The major pillars of health research in the country – DOST, DOH, CHED, and UP Manila – support legislation that will formalize and institutionalize the PNHRS. This bill will fuse together all health research and development efforts of the country, through the National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA), in order to affect and enable evidence-informed health policies and actions.

With an institutionalized PNHRS in place, our country can be assured of better and more efficient health care delivery and services, as well as prompt and adequate responses to national emergencies and health concerns.

Mr. President, I urge the members of this chamber to pave the way for meaningful investment in health research. Let us give our Filipino scientists and researchers the means and opportunities to develop groundbreaking and valuable health research. Let us provide them with an enabling environment that will allow them to translate their research output into world-class health services and products.

I thus earnestly seek the urgent approval of this bill. Thank you very much.

[1] Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Philippine Health Research: Making Lives Better (Taguig City, Philippines: Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, 2007), 10.
[2] Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, 73.
[3] Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, 71.
[4] Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, 32.
[5] Paterno, Ramon P. (2010) Financing Health Research. Institute of Health Policy Development Studies, UPM National Institutes of Health. (Please see slide 4).
[6] The World Bank (2013). Research and development expenditure (% of GDP)

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