Our region needs to ask itself how it can ensure that economic growth will positively impact the broadest possible range of communities and families. I personally believe that access to timely, affordable and high-quality health care is key, since economic growth is contingent on a healthy population.
But there are a number of challenges. The Philippines, for example, has only 0.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people (the WHO recommends two), while some 30,000 Filipino medical professionals work abroad because of better pay. Health facilities tend to be concentrated in urban areas, while rural areas suffer from higher levels of poverty and mother and child mortality.
The region's governments are aware of these issues and changes are sought in various ways. More money is being diverted to health infrastructure and health policies are being modernized with the introduction of universal health coverage. Unfortunately, decision-making can be slow, implementation more complicated than expected and enforcement of policies less ardent than needed.
An overhaul of the region's health systems is an immense task that requires co-operation between governments and the private sector. Philips, for example, recently partnered with the Indonesian Reproductive Science Institute to tackle the country's infant mortality rate, which had risen sharply from 227 per 100,000 births in 2007 to 359 in 2012, making it one of the highest in the world. Now, as part of a one-year trial, midwives in the Medan area will visit pregnant women and collect their medical data with a mobile app so that obstetricians and gynaecologists elsewhere can monitor patients. The effort aims to increase pre-natal care, improve delivery and provide immediate care for high-risk patients.
Harjit Gill is EVP and Chief Executive Officer of Philips ASEAN & Pacific. In this role, she oversees a team of 10,000 people in 11 countries and is responsible for accelerating growth for the company across its Healthcare, Lighting and Consumer Lifestyle sectors.
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