Editor's Note: On Tuesday, October 11, the Mexican Secretary of Health, Doctor José Narro, spoke to the Mexican Senate's Health Commission as part of the annual presidential report to Congress. Below, ManattJones Global Strategies summarizes key points from Dr. Narro's presentation. For more information on the Mexican healthcare system, landscape and market, see our article in the October issue of Health Update, "Mexico's Healthcare Opportunities: Growing Demand for Private Sector Alternatives."

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In his presentation to the Mexican Senate's Health Commission, Secretary of Health Doctor José Narro highlighted significant advancements and challenges in the public healthcare sector. He pointed out Mexico's opportunities to increase and improve productivity, to promote inclusion in education and in the workforce, and to strengthen public confidence in institutions. He also pushed for action on healthcare in the legislative agenda.

Public Concerns Around Inclusion and Confidence in Institutions

Dr. Narro addressed public concerns regarding inclusion and confidence in institutions by affirming Mexico's commitment to including a wider scope of the population in the country's productive sectors. Specifically, he noted that work needs to be done to achieve greater inclusion in education, as well as to provide increased opportunities for job training and employment. He emphasized that engaging more people in a broader range of productive roles promises to improve government efficiency and increase public confidence in institutions. As a result, there would be higher levels of transparency and social participation. He further stressed that without health there can be no development, progress or individual welfare.

Notable Healthcare Achievements

Dr. Narro outlined several notable achievements in the public healthcare sector. He lauded the successful vaccination program, an investment of around 21 billion pesos (roughly $1 billion USD) that provided over 300 million vaccinations during the Peña Nieto Administration (2012–present). During this time, both infant mortality and traffic-related mortality decreased. In addition, social and government efforts to increase research into chronic degenerative diseases have begun to deliver results.

Another major improvement that Dr. Narro cited was Congress's approval of reforms aimed at improving fiscal management of federal institutions, including those related to health. As a result, 65,000 additional workers were registered with Mexico's Social Security Institute (IMSS) which provides healthcare for the formal sector. (The formal sector consists of businesses, enterprises and economic activities that are monitored, protected and taxed by government. The informal sector is comprised of workers and businesses that are not under government regulation.)

Furthermore, infrastructure developments have materialized, including more than 40 billion pesos (about $2 billion USD) invested to promote the development of both generic and innovative medicines. IMSS also has coordinated a pooled purchases mechanism for non-patented drugs that has generated savings of about 10.8 billion pesos (roughly $500 million USD) in a traditionally problematic drug supply chain for public institutions. In addition, IMSS opened bidding for around 50 billion pesos (roughly $2.5 billion USD) for drugs and materials used in healthcare units.

Dr. Narro concluded his delineation of notable achievements by spotlighting Mexico's huge advances in palliative care, pain management and terminal patient care. He also emphasized the continuing need for a high quality of care among public health institutions and high-caliber outpatient units.

Continuing Challenges and Concerns

In spite of Mexico's significant accomplishments, Dr. Narro noted that there are still tough challenges within Mexico's health sector and stressed the importance of both better financing and universalization of health services. He cited diabetes, obesity, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, renal failure, violent deaths, sickness among young people, and teenage pregnancy as major continued health concerns for Mexico's population. Additionally, Mexico's health sector still suffers from incomplete coverage and duplication in the system.

Legislative Initiatives

As part of a legislative agenda moving forward, Dr. Narro expressed interest in pursuing an initiative in the Senate that proposes to investigate the scientific and therapeutic use of essential derivatives of marijuana. He also highlighted an initiative pending approval in the House of Representatives that would establish a regulatory agency to monitor healthcare establishments and services.