TRIM SYSTEM

Mexico 2014 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mercedes Juan López, Secretary of Health, on reforms intended for the sector, social security, and R&D efforts.

Mercedes Juan López
BIOGRAPHY
Mercedes Juan López was born in Mexico City. She is a surgeon and a specialist in rehabilitation medicine, and graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She has a graduate degree in Neurological Rehabilitation from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM). Her professional development has been closely linked to public health issues. She is the first woman to hold several important positions in the health sector in Mexico. She was the first Undersecretary of Regulation and Sanitary Promotion in the Mexican Secretariat of Health, as well as the first Secretary of the General Health Council, a constitutional organ appointed by the President of the Mexican Republic. Now, as the first woman holding the position of Secretary of Health, Mercedes Juan López works passionately to promote prevention and to make public health services in Mexico efficient and of high quality.

What are the main goals and landmark achievements of the Strategic Health Plan 2013-2018?

President Peña Nieto has identified the health sector as one of the government's five strategic pillars. His aim is to make Mexico a more inclusive country, with higher levels of security, global responsibility, and greater education, becoming a nation prepared for future challenges. One of the first reforms the President advanced was that of the education system, and today he has the health sector in sight. Back in 1983, Mexico had already determined healthcare to be the right of all Mexicans. Indeed, our constitution stipulates a right to protect health. Subsequently, a general health law followed. The law has seen numerous amendments over the past couple of decades, with an accompanying modernization of public health institutions to establish a strong national health system. The office of the Secretary of Health was created in 1943, but back then it had a stronger focus on providing assistance. Since then, we have also seen the establishment of the main national health institutions, and it was only in 1985 when the Secretariat of Health was established in the form it takes today. It has been restructured following Mexico's move to a decentralized health system, in which each state assumes health responsibilities. This process was strengthened during the 1990s, and today each of the 32 states has its own Health Secretary. In 2004, the government of Mexico established the social security system. Ever since then, we have been strengthening this system with the inclusion of a larger number of diseases, the treatment of which is covered by social security.

How has the social security system taken shape since 2004?

In 2014, we will celebrate its 10th anniversary; initially it started out with 5 million affiliated members, while today the number is at 55.6 million. In terms of diseases and surgical procedures, it initially covered around 90, but today encompasses over 300. We have an economic fund allocated to the treatment of rare and high-cost-related diseases; 10 years ago we only included leukemia for children, while today we include a pool of over 60 such diseases based on epidemiological data. Overall, the achievements over the past decade have been formidable; we have increased the coverage of social security, and the number of affiliates, while people are more aware of their entitlements. The allocation of funds among the states is done according to the number of affiliates each has, and we have an extensive portfolio of free medicines for the public. The social security system also allocates a budget to provide full-coverage insurance for children less than five years of age. Today, we are in the process of strengthening our control over the general allocation of funds and their administration in the different states.

What segments of the health industry offer the greatest potential to attract foreign investment?

I personally believe that the technological segment within the health industry, as well as infrastructure, offer the most attractive potential for investment. We will be witnessing interesting projects in the near future within the framework of public-private partnerships. We have already built six hospitals within this scheme in Mexico, and feedback has been positive.