The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $450-million loan to support health policy reforms in the Philippines, particularly the Universal Health Care (UHC) program.

In a statement yesterday, the ADB said the policy-based loan is intended to help improve access to medicines and health services as well as increase funding for the country's UHC program.

It said the Build UHC Program (Subprogram 2) is helping the government scale up efforts to implement key reforms under the UHC Act of 2019, including sustainable financing, delivery of quality health services, and the interoperability of health information systems.

The new program builds on support earlier provided by the ADB for Subprogram 1 and technical assistance financed by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific approved in November 2021.

'The Build UHC Program is part of ADB's commitment to deliver long-term support to the country to ensure all Filipinos have equitable access to quality health services without exhausting their finances,' ADB principal health specialist Eduardo Banzon said.

He said the program is expected to help ensure the reforms cover gender-specific health issues, as well as climate change effects on health.

As part of reforms, the government has adopted an updated health financing strategy, a national medicine access policy and the National Health Data Repository framework.

To make sure public health facilities are disaster-resilient, environmentally sustainable and gender-responsive, the ADB said the Green and Safe Health Facilities scheme has been implemented.

In addition, the number of primary care providers was increased and primary care benefits were enhanced under the National Health Insurance Program.

For health promotion activities in communities, workplaces and schools across the country, barangay health workers were designated as community-level health education and promotion officers.

The government also started an annual monitoring of UHC outputs as well as introduced performance incentives for local government units.

Since 2016, the ADB has been working with the Philippines in implementing the UHC Act and in strengthening the health system.

During the pandemic, the ADB also helped the country secure COVID vaccines.

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