A protester raises a placard in front of the Department of Health in Manila on Oct 4, 2022. (PHOTO / AFP)
MANILA - One in five people, or an estimated 385 million, in the Western Pacific region have grappled with "catastrophic" health expenses, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report released on Monday.
The percentage of people in the Western Pacific who suffered catastrophic health expenses, defined as out-of-pocket spending on health that exceeds 10 percent of the household budget, doubled between 2000 and 2017, said the WHO report.
It also said financial hardship from health spending is the highest among those who live in poorer households, have older members, or are in rural areas
In 2000, the report said one in 10 people in the region incurred catastrophic health spending. By 2017 the number had increased to one in five in the Western Pacific facing "catastrophic spending" on health care.
High out-of-pocket expenses can prevent people, especially vulnerable populations, from seeking health care. When the household costs are relatively high compared to their ability to pay, health expenses can push families into financial hardship, said the report.
It also said financial hardship from health spending is the highest among those who live in poorer households, have older members, or are in rural areas. The report warned the situation "can exacerbate health and socioeconomic inequalities in the region" if left unchecked.
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For households in the region, the report said, medicines are the biggest drivers of out-of-pocket health spending, followed by outpatient care.
"The evidence is alarming in this region," said WHO Director of Health Systems and Services for the Western Pacific Lluis Vinals Torres, who stressed the need to lower the costs of medicines for those with chronic conditions who need daily medications.
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