Dr. Rozita Halina on Financing Primary Health Care in Malaysia and Beyond

JLN Network Manager

Dr. Rozita Halina on Financing Primary Health Care in Malaysia and Beyond

Several JLN country members were present at the recent Asia & The Pacific Health Financing Forum (APHFF) to discuss “Financing Primary Health Care: Opportunities at the Boundaries.” Watch Dr. Rozita Halina, Director of Planning Division at Ministry of Health in Malaysia, CCG lead for Malaysia, and long-time JLN champion, share her takeaways on next steps to finance primary health care and reach UHC not only in the region, but across the world.

Amid a series of crises shaking the world, health policy makers and practitioners can find themselves struggling to gather the necessary financial resources for primary health care, where the majority of disease burden is first tackled. Initially discussed at the recent global Annual Health Financing Forum held in June 2022, this issue became the focus of the first regional APHFF that took place in Bangkok, Thailand this past September. Over two days and 11 sessions, participants comprised of health and finance policy makers and practitioners from all over the region held conversations on innovative, and at times controversial, possibilities to finance primary health care (PHC).

While effective PHC has been the focus of global debates for over 40 years since the Alma Ata declaration of 1978, the importance of discussions remains for clear reasons: health problems in low- and middle-income countries have evolved, and so have financing opportunities. As the first point of care for most of the population, PHC must continually evolve and receive adequate resources to continue covering prevention, treatment, and palliation among many services. Without such support, patients can face significant out-of-pocket (OOP) costs, receive poor quality care, or even forgoing this care entirely.

The Forum first covered the situation of PHC in South Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific regions. Nine sessions then delved into topics such as options to fund PHC in times of COVID-19, measures of financial protection taken in the region over the last two decades, the financing of essential medicines, or health taxes in times of COVID-19.

JLN country members were well represented in the panel sessions, and seized the opportunity to share both successes and lessons learned. South Korean participants presented their methods to ensure access to essential medicines and reduce OOP costs through rigorous new drug introduction and price negotiation practices. Their health insurance system systematically reviews the clinical usefulness and cost effectiveness of new drugs, considers alternative drugs, and arrives at a suggested reimbursement amount, thus lowering overall drug prices for patients. Indonesia reflected on progresses in the delivery of maternal and neonatal healthcare. The country has set up several incentives for health providers at the primary level, like covering services based on the number of ante and post-natal visits of the mother, and on the type and number of health providers present at delivery.

What are the next steps following this Forum? As Dr. Rozita explained in her closing remarks, the sessions were an opportunity to start conversations among countries on best practices and lessons learned. Countries can now take advantage of initiatives such as the JLN to dive deeper into issues they face nationally, such as the provision of PHC in urban settings or competition between private and public healthcare settings, before hopefully reconvening in a year for a second edition of the Forum.


Have any reflections from your JLN experiences? Please share them using the comments feature, below.


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