Harvard conference promotes Thai-US health connections

The same week that Bloomberg raised Thailand 14 places in its global Health Care Efficiency Index, Harvard University held a two-day seminar aimed at promoting greater connections and collaboration between Thailand and the United States in the fields of public health and medicine.

Thailand rose to 27th place, up from 41st place last year – the biggest annual improvement by any country – in the Bloomberg Health Care Efficiency Index. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he was extremely pleased with the result. Healthcare and medical services research and development are among ten industries the government is focusing on as part of its Thailand 4.0 national development strategy.

The Index analyzed 56 countries that have life expectancies of 70 years or higher, with per capita gross domestic product higher than $5,000 and a minimum population of 5 million. It ranks countries by how much they spend in relation to the services and quality of services they deliver and results as measured by a set of health indicators.

Thailand’s per capita spending on health care now stands at US$218, and the average lifespan of the population has risen to 75.1 years, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

The Kingdom’s public health system has been praised by the United Nations as a good model of what a developing country with limited resources can accomplish.

The United States has played a role in the development of Thailand’s public health system. Prince Mahidol (1892-1929), who is regarded as the father of Thai public health and medicine, and was the grandfather of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, graduated from Harvard Medical School.

His son, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who passed away in 2016, sent promising medical students to study in the United States on royal scholarships decades ago creating a corps of doctors and medical professionals that accelerated the development and delivery of public health in the Kingdom.

Both men were honored last week at a two-day symposium at Harvard University attended by 70 professionals and academics from Thailand and the United States. They discussed how to increase collaboration between both countries in public health.

Mike McNally, Vice Dean for the Office of External Relations, announced the launch of a new Thai Scholars Fellowship Fund. The fund is intended to strengthen the relationship between the Harvard Chan School and Thai scholars by providing financial support to students for tuition and fees.

“We invite colleagues from everywhere on the planet to come to Boston, work with us, and then to return to their homeland to put in place what they have learned,” said Dean Michael Grusby. “Prince Mahidol exemplified the model that we encourage.”

Harvard Professor Joseph Brain said, “Health indices in Thailand are very good, but accomplished at a much lower cost than in the United States. They have made a commitment to universal healthcare. There are lessons to be learned for the United States.”

Photo courtesy of https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/celebrating-thailand-father-of-public-health-and-modern-medicine/