This health justice initiative was conceptualized before the emergence of COVID-19 in facilitated discussions of two academic and technical meetings - Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) academic partners with support from the CMB Foundation, and the Commission of Health Justice Asia Beas River Retreat in 2019. They analyzed the contexts of Universal Health Care (UHC) and factors that led to the occurrence of diseases and issues related to equitable access to health care in Asia. They agreed on the need to create a new momentum to call for justice in health, with a people-centered focus to reduce health inequalities. The group agreed on the need to develop a “joint design thinking” whereby academics, and operational partners work in close collaboration with population groups understand the issues from the ground up. To do this, they emphasized on the need for academics working on health justice to collaborate with counterparts from disciplines of social sciences and anthropology, to systematically study the experiences of the people, such as the vulnerable populations at the regional level in Asia and at the national level, to capture the rapidly changing socio-economic landscape and to develop policy proposals as well as expand networks of scholars for future health equity agenda in Asia.
Thailand’s COVID-19 experiences provide an opportunity to document the strengths and weaknesses related to health justice within the context of the COVID-19 response from a systems thinking perspective; it provides an opportunity to consider health justice within the context of health governance. With seed funding from the CMB Foundation and Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, The National Health Foundation convened a working group to conceptualize a health justice framework and document case studies. We aim to document Thailand’s response to COVID-19 with a lens on ‘Health Justice’. Our report considers selected case studies to reflect the country’s response and discusses the potential for systematically advancing health justice within the governance structure, through advocacy with policymakers and thought leaders in academia, the state sector, the private sector, the nonprofit sector, and civil society. Our report will address both case studies on policy decisions, governance, and engagement of different sectors and social groups as Thailand’s collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also a newly synthesized framework of health justice in Thailand’s contexts.
In this PMAC side meeting, we will share our work-in-progress and seek discussions and suggestions on how these case studies and the synthesized framework of health justice could be utilized in health systems strengthening efforts, both domestically and internationally.