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Six years of work with the National Health Act

Six years of work with the National Health Act

March 2013

The National Health Act defines good health as comprising the four dimensions of well-being: physical, mental, spiritual and social health. The scope of work for good health therefore expands beyond medicine, public health and the operations of the Ministry of Public Health. The National Health Bill passed its drafting process in which Thai people largely participated. It won approval of the Thai Rak Thai Party-led government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and passed the first reading of the House. Pending its scrutiny by a special House committee, the House was dissolved in 2005. After a coup d’etat in 2006, there was the National Legislative Assembly which passed the law in 2007.

The law attaches importance to comprehensive participation in developing and implementing health-related public policies in accordance with the principle of participatory democracy and in compliance with the work of the government under the rule of representative democracy. Therefore, it requires instruments including a statute on health systems to guide national health systems and be a reference for all parties to use for health-related activities. The law also requires local, national and issue-based health assemblies and health impact assessment (HIA).

The National Health Act mandates the establishment of the National Health Commission (NHC) that is duty-bound to support the participatory development of health-related public policies with tools and offer recommendations and advice to the cabinet on health policies and strategies (Section 25). The commission has the prime minister as its chair and the minister of public health as its vice chair. Its members comprise the fair number of representatives from three sectors: 13 members each from the government, the academic/professional sector and the civil sector. Its secretariat is the National Health Commission Office (NHCO) that is a governmental organization outside the civil service sector but under the jurisdiction of the prime minister. The secretariat is tasked with coordinating work with all sectors in the society efficiently.

It works together with the Ministry of Public Health, other concerned ministries/organizations, local administration organizations, people’s organizations and private organizations to ensure general participation in and acceptance of the development and implementation of health-related public policies.

In the past six years, the NHC offered considerable support to the development and implementation of health-related public policies. Five rounds of the National Health Assembly were organized. It reached 50 resolutions on policy-related proposals. The cabinet approved many proposals and assigned organizations to implement them. Concerned organizations including local administration organizations and people’s organizations implemented them voluntarily. They included resolutions for campaigns against asbestos and unwanted pregnancy among teenagers, a resolution to control alcohol and tobacco consumption, a resolution on the universal access to medicines of Thai people, a resolution on the prevention of the negative impacts on health of free trade negotiations, a resolution on the prevention of and solutions to health hazardous from smoke haze and a resolution on the review of southern development plans for the sake of well-being.

The NHC also set criteria for health impact assessment (HIA) that has been used together with environmental impact assessment (EIA). It supported HIA in many communities. Health statute was formulated at the levels of districts and village clusters nationwide to enable local people to take care of their own health. It sponsored the organization of area and issue-based health assemblies to develop and implement the public policies that meet local demands nationwide. It formed 5-6 national commissions to continuously develop important policies. They include a commission on the development of local wisdom on health, a commission on national health workforce, a c commission to study the impacts of free trade on health and a commission to develop systems and mechanisms for health impact assessment.

In January 2013, the present NHC that Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi chairs on behalf of the prime minister resolved to develop and implement public policies for national health in four areas namely (1) community health systems, (2) the health of senior citizens, (3) food and health, and (4) the health of children, teenagers and families. These will be our next missions.

Amphon Jindawatthana
Secretary General
National Health Commission