Fri, Apr 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Sharing Taiwan’s healthcare experience

By Lin Shih-chia 林世嘉

Taiwan has yet to know whether it will be invited to attend this year’s World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland, next month. Whether or not Taiwan is invited, if it wants to connect with the international community and play a role in international health issues, it needs to keep in touch with global health trends and understand the main issues of concern to the WHO.

The theme for this year’s WHA is “Advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Building Better Systems for Health,” and it will explore how to strengthen systems for promoting health in countries at different levels of social and economic development.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly approved a declaration titled “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” along with 17 sustainable development goals that set priorities for the world until 2030. The agenda stresses common development in three aspects — environmental, economic and social — and the WHO is leveraging this agenda by calling for health to be seen as a core issue to achieve these goals.

To achieve these sustainable development goals, the report of January’s session of the WHO’s executive board proposes several strategies for reform.

First, it calls for a shift from “health governance” to “governance for health.” This means not just integrating work and resources within healthcare departments, but also making other departments protect and promote health. For example, tackling air pollution involves construction, the environment and health.

Second, the WHO calls for strengthening healthcare systems to achieve universal health coverage as essential for development.

Investment in public health might not be as visible and glamorous as industrial development, but health infrastructure is an important pillar supporting the functioning of a country.

The WHO has also noticed the opportunities brought by innovations in information and communication technology. In the age of big data, analysis, application and management of data is essential to strengthening healthcare systems.

Taiwan has repeatedly been shut out of the international community because of political concerns. Indignant as one might feel about this, promoting Taiwan’s participation in the WHO requires more than just political action. It also calls for laying a firm foundation by making contributions to technological expertise.

The National Health Insurance program that benefits people in Taiwan is founded on well-functioning financial and health systems. However, many problems have cropped up in the course of running the program. Given that Taiwan has already achieved universal health coverage, its experience with health finance and data systems, and the challenges it has faced with these systems, can enrich the discussion about “moving toward governance for health.”

Taiwan’s innovative health cloud service and PharmaCloud system, its experience in interdepartmental cooperation on the tobacco surcharge and tax and its experience in detection and control of counterfeit medicines all correspond to the WHO’s areas of concern. They are issues that can enhance Taiwan’s practical participation and ways in which it can meaningfully contribute.

Taiwan has built up copious health databases and statistical data that can be used in coordination with sustainable development goal indices. It could keep in step with international data by offering a Taiwanese version of the WHO’s World Health Statistics reports. Such measures would strengthen Taiwan’s meaningful participation and resonate with globally relevant issues.

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