The Prince Mahidol Award Conference: Priority Setting for Universal Health Coverage
The Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) is an annual international conference focusing on policy-related health issues of global significance. The conference is hosted by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation, the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Mahidol University and other global partners. It is an international policy forum that Global Health Institutes, both public and private, can co-own and use for advocacy and for seeking international perspectives on important global health issues. The Conference in 2016 will be co-hosted by the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the China Medical Board, the Rockefeller Foundation, NICE International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the National Evidence-based Healthcare Collaborating Agency, South Korea with the support from other key related partners. The Conference will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 26 -31 January 2016.
Universal health coverage (UHC) is high on the global agenda as a means to ensure population health, equity and social development. In most countries where current access to essential health care is limited, introducing UHC prompts serious concerns among government leaders on the growing expenditures and demands for public resources. As such, priority setting is indispensable and has been applied at various levels, to ensure that finite health resources can be used in the most cost-effective ways, to provide a high quality and appropriate package of healthcare for the population. At the macro level, priority setting can be used to set limits of the health budget and how much should be spent on health insurance; at the meso level, how much should be spent on infrastructure development and human resources; at the micro level, how much should be spent on particular drugs, technologies, intervention, and policies within a health problem.
Priority setting involves explicit and implicit approaches and the focus of the theme is explicit approaches, which encourages the use of evidence, transparency, and participation. Although priority setting cannot avoid politics, evidence should come first and politics are complementary to what evidence cannot address because evidence-based priority setting can make UHC acceptable and sustainable. It is noteworthy that since health-related decisions are driven by the Health in All Policy notion, priority setting is undertaken not only by policy makers in the Ministry of Health and Health Insurance Office, but also by stakeholders in non-health sectors such as the Ministry of Finance, development partners, and civil society organizations.
The role of health intervention and technology assessment (HITA), not only as a technical exercise but also as a deliberative process, is increasingly recognized as a tool for explicit priority setting, including in the development of the health benefits package, which is an integral part of UHC – what kind of services to provide and to whom. The concept of HITA and its contribution to UHC were endorsed in the resolutions of the WHO Regional Committees for the Americas in 2012 and Southeast Asia in 2013, the Executive Board in January 2014, and the World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution in May 2014. All these resolutions call for movements on capacity building for and introduction of HITA in all countries, especially in those resource-finite settings. It is anticipated that these movements will increase awareness and demand for HITA studies in the health sector. The WHA resolution also requests the WHO Director-General to report back to the WHA in May 2016. Thus the PMAC in January 2016 would be most timely to track the progresses and recommend further actions.
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