2012 Prince Mahidol Awards Conference ends on a high note

Over 800 health experts and academics from 68 countries gathered in Bangkok, Thailand from January 24-28, 2012 for the annual 2012 Prince Mahidol Awards Conference (PMAC). This year's conference, “Moving towards universal health coverage: health financing matters,” explored the experiences of low, middle and high-income countries that are trying to design and implement equitable, efficient and sustainable health financing systems to ensure access to and utilization of essential health services without financial barriers.

Hosted by the Royal Thai Government and the Prince Mahidol Award Foundation, and co-sponsored by other global partners such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Results for Development Institute, and the World Bank the conference offered eight site visits, four Plenary sessions, and 20 side sessions on topics as varied as shaping health financing institutional design for universal coverage to mobilizing for health: challenging power relations.

Opening remarks were delivered by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Other keynote speakers included 2012 Prince Mahidol Award recipients Ruth Bishop, Professor at Melbourne University -- who is largely credited with discovering the rotavirus -- and Jayantbhai Thakor, Board member of the National Insurance VimoSEWA Cooperative – the first women-owned and managed insurance cooperative in India.

Site visits offered conference participants the opportunity to learn about the Thai Universal Health Scheme (UHS) including how the Thai's use information technology to manage their insurance scheme, improve access through a streamlined referral process, and engage community organizations in the management of the UHS program.

Many of the week’s most interesting discussions took place during the conference side sessions. During parallel session 4.2 titled, “Giants racing towards UHC: Health financing reforms in China and India,” panelist Dr. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India and chair of India’s High-level Expert Group on UHC explained the eight key components of the panel’s recommendation which include: Increasing public expenditure on health from 2.5 percent to 3 percent by 2022, removing user fees, and ensuring the availability of free essential medicines by increasing public spending on drug procurement.

Dr. Reddy’s presentation was met with some skepticism from the audience on whether India’s public sector could deliver as a purchaser and a provider, but ultimately the audience showed general optimism for India’s ability to achieve UHC.

The conference closed on a high note on Saturday, January 28, 2012 with a Ministerial Round Table. Professor Anne Mills provided the closing remarks and a summary of key takeaways such as:

  • Every country can do something, but progress will be gradual
  • CSO mobilization and political will are essential to the success of any UHC program
  • There is no blueprint model for UHC. Unique country socio-political climate and history will determine their path to achieving UHC

The Prince Mahidol Awards Conference was founded in 2007 to honor the birthday of Prince Mahidol of Songkla. The Thai people recognize him as “The Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health of Thailand” due to his great contributions to the progress of public health is Thailand. The Prince Mahidol Award is conferred annually by His Majesty the King of Thailand to an individual(s) or institution(s) for outstanding performance and/or research that has a global impact in the field of medicine and public health.

If you would like to share your perspectives on the 2012 PMAC Conference, please email us at [email protected].

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