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Political parties present only old health policies and fail to address health inequity during their vote campaigns.

NHCO / Story of the Month  / Political parties present only old health policies and fail to address health inequity during their vote campaigns.

On June 22, 2011, the National Health Commission Office of Thailand (NCHO) organized a forum on “How much political parties are interested in public well-being?”

At the discussion were Dr Amphon Jindawatthana, secretary-general to the National Health Commission, Dr Piya Hanvoravongchai, PhD, a public health academic from Chulalongkorn University, and Decharat Sukkamnerd, PhD, economist of Kasetsart University.

From left : Dr. Piya Hanvoravongchai, Dr. Amphon Jindawatthana, Dr. Decharat Sukkamnerd

Most political parties are interested in health issues, especially health security. They mention health promotion and illness prevention broadly but their health policies are not new and lack details. They do not plan any solution to systematic problems which are important. The issues include personnel management, health inequity and unequal access to health services that the health security system does not cover. Besides, political parties do not place importance on solving the eight deadly illnesses that are the common causes of deaths in Thailand. The discussion panel urged political parties to develop the policies that comprehensively address health problems, bring about long-term solutions, are integrated with policies in other areas and apply health innovations to reduce unequal access to health services.

Dr Amphon Jindawatthana, secretary-general to the National Health Commission, said public policies might have both positive and negative impacts on public health. He viewed that people should base their voting decisions on the policies of political parties because the policies of the parties that rose to power would be implemented. Therefore, the NHCO is seriously analyzing health policies and other policies of all political parties that may have impacts on public health.

Dr Piya Hanvorawongchai of Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of medicine said party policies were not designed to resolve public health problems such as decentralisation of government power; public and local authority participation; the Public Health Ministry’s domination of public health direction; medicalpersonnel management; and the relationship between patients and medical workers.

“Some political parties just copy public policy from the Constitution,” he said.

Moreover, they did not give priority to prevention of noncommunicable illness such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Dr Decharat Sukkamnerd, lecturer at the Faculty of Economics of Kasetsart University, said political parties were trying to woo votes with a number of generous policies that include policies to raise the minimum wage, support rice prices and offer discounts or gifts to particular groups of people such as a 100,000-baht subsidy for people’s first vehicle, tablet computers for students, and credit cards for farmers. Such policies are like sales promotions aimed at interesting people but lack details on the conceptual frameworks and the mechanisms that will lead to transparent, fair and sustainable implementation. As a result, people cannot assess the suitability and possibility of policies and the possible impacts of the policies on themselves, their communities and their society. Such numerous and generous policies may be only “painkillers” and people will need other cures in the next four years.

Dr Decharat pointed out that, under fierce competition in this election, no political party would give an assurance that it would comply with the Constitution’s Article 67(2), requiring state agencies and private companies to conduct environmental and health impact assessments on potentially harmful projects.

“The country cannot step forward if political parties do not come up with clear answers on this environmental and health impact assessments mechanism,” he said.

However, Dr. Decharat analysed that political parties were apparently paying attention to more health determinants such as economic and social factors. This reflected the idea of “Health in all Policies” whichs is in accordance with the concept of the National Health Act.

ASTV, Manager online on 23 June 2011
Thaipost dated 23 June 2011
The Nation dated 23 June 2011