Nordic Ambassadors' Forum: Towards A Healthier Future

This year's Nordic Ambassadors Forum, held last 9 November 2021, focused on building a healthier future. Following are some insights from the event.




Ambassador Thunborg discussed the universal health care system in Sweden, which dates back to 1955. She stated that the system is financed by the public sector through a progressive taxation system. And the goal of Sweden's health policies is to create the social conditions that permit a healthy population and to guarantee an equal access to health and care for all citizens. 

She also explained that there are three principles guide the management of the universal health care system which we see as a universal human right. And these are: 

  • Equality, dignity, and rights for everyone regardless of where they find themselves on the socio-economic scale, regardless of ethnicity or gender.  
  • Necessity and solidarity, according to which those with the greatest medical needs are attended to first.  
  • Cost-efficiency which determines the reasonable relationship between cost and results for example in the prescription of medicines, clinical studies and treatments. 

Close to 245 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year. Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) exacerbates gender-based violence, say experts. Women have a harder time breaking free from domestic abuse if they experience unwanted pregnancies, contract sexually transmitted disease, or have young children to protect . Women must have access to comprehensive and science-based sex education and access to contraception. They must also be able to discuss and ask questions about sex -- without judgement or discrimination. 

In closing, Ambassador Annika said that by providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights to young people promotes safer sex, reduces unwanted pregnancies, and lowers school drop-out rates. This enables them to participate in civil society, economic growth, and sustainable development.  Sweden will continue to pursue its feminist foreign policy which aims to achieve parity between men and women. 




Ambassador Staurset defined Precision Medicine as the customization of healthcare, where medical decisions, practices and products are tailored to the individual patient. The concept of customizing medicine involves considering all relevant sources of information about the patient, from his or her biomarkers to their social attributes. Simply put, it is about providing the right treatment at the right time for the right patient.  

As an example, he stated, a person who needs a blood transfusion does not receive this from a random donor. Rather, the donor's blood type is matched to the recipient's in order to reduce the risk of complications. Precision Medicine means moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach and starting to take into account the individual characteristics of each patient to find the best treatment. 

He then explained why Norway as a country is well positioned to drive this change, one important area where precision medicine is being developed in Norway right now, is the treatment of cancer and with more precise treatments, lives can be saved. And CONNECT makes this possible in Norway. It is a public-private consortium driving the implementation of precision cancer medicine by jointly addressing key obstacles and piloting novel solutions to transform current practice. It is aimed at providing patients with access to medicines they would otherwise not get, increasing the precision medicine experience of Norwegian clinicians and researchers, and generating data and insights for analyzing those outcomes. 

In conclusion, he stated that Healthcare in Norway is founded on the principle of universal access, just as it does in Sweden. The National Insurance Scheme provides healthcare coverage for all Norwegians, thus, this ensures that all citizens have equal access to health care. As part of this national approach to precision medicine, the fact that hospitals and other institutions in Norway, by and large, are public is critical. 




Ambassador Pyykö stated that Finland's high-tech export sector for health is one of the fastest growing, and he predicts Finland will be called a small giant in health, since Finland is a global leader in value for money, quality, and equality in health care. The latter part is something that is common to all Nordics, he added. Chronic conditions and populations are leading to a rising demand for different health care services, and a shortage of skilled personnel is a common issue in many countries, like Finland. According to estimates, there will be a 15,000,001 five shortage of healthcare personnel by 2030. That means hospitals will have to do more with less and digital solutions, such as smart hospitals, are the only way to address this issue.  

Following this, he explained what a smart hospital is and how it operates. According to the Finnish Ambassador, a smart hospital offers digitized processes, care planning, and medical decision support, which allows medical professionals to do what they do best, which is to treat patients. Devices such as tablets, robots, patient monitoring, sensors, and virtual reality are part of smart hospitals. As well as analytics software, there is artificial intelligence and security software, and identity management software. Wellness plans that support chronic disease management can be integrated with smart devices. 

Finland is one of the first countries in the world to establish a national repository for patient data, covering both public and private healthcare. According to the European personalized healthcare index 2020, Finland is the most prepared European country to transition to a personalized digital health future. Finnish digital skills are paramount, the safe handling of patient data is one of Finland's unique strengths. It has developed an innovative system to meet strict data protection requirements, while allowing data to be used for research, statistics and healthcare development. Ideas can be turned into concrete solutions through this system, and it has been attracting worldwide attention. 

Lastly he introduced two amazing Finnish Healthcare programs, the Smart Life Finland  and Personalized Health Finland. The Smart Life Finland program actively aims at promoting the introduction of technologies that revolutionize the fields of health care and wellbeing. By doing so, it accelerates the development of trailblazing solutions with great international potential that will help lead the digital revolution in the right direction. The Personalized Health Finland is another example of a program that aims to find ways to shift the focus from treating diseases to preventing, predicting, and treating health loss, and utilizes individualized data. These programs are constantly seeking innovative ideas and promising projects that can be developed together, as well as global partners such as corporate clients and investors, and research organizations looking to collaborate on innovation. 




According to Ambassador Grete Sillasen, as a small country with 5.5 million people, Denmark has its health services organized into three levels of the state, five regions and 98 municipalities. The state handles legislation and certain decisions regarding how the regions should function. The idea is to divide competencies, so not everyone is doing the same thing. State funding for hospitals is, of course, a significant factor. 80% of the hospital's expenses are funded by the state, and 20% by the region.  

She reiterated what Ambassador Staurset said about the thing about getting a personal registration number, once you’re in the system you are also registered to health services. And the important thing is here, it’s not about whether you’re lucky to have an employer who will provide health care for you. It is done through the state. In conjunction with what Ambassador Thunborg and Ambassador Pyykö have said about how much is spent on health care, Denmark is in the same league as some 10% of the GDP is spent on health. And Amb Sillasen believes it's very important to add that it is spent in an efficient manner. Health care expenditures may be higher in some countries, but their efficiency might not be as high. Therefore, you need to record it based on two criteria: how much you receive and how efficiently you give it.  

To further ensure quality at the primary level, Denmark has taken proactive steps to boost the digital health care, collaboration for all patients, and Denmark's goal is to make sure that patients experience the healthcare system as cogent and trustworthy as possible, and that healthcare functions for everyone. In this regard, Ambassador Sillasen believes that trustworthiness is critical. 

In conclusion, Ambassador Grete Sillasen emphasized on the following points: 

  • Equity is at the core of Denmark’s healthcare system.  

  • Disease prevention is key in achieving the highest level of health among the population – and this is the way forward.  

  • Denmark’s healthcare system has come a long way, but future challenges still lie ahead (e.g. ageing population, rise in chronic diseases.)  

  • Partnerships among stakeholders is crucial to provide the best prevention, care, rehabilitation, and treatment with the patients’ needs as top priority, at the lowest cost as possible. 




Mr. Jeff Williams is the Chairman of the Board of the Health Information Management Association of the Philippines (HIMAP) the Philippine Context of Healthcare systems. Every country has an ageing population thus there is a need for digital innovation. At present there is a massive data generation and collection that is happening, therefore computing tools to analyze the data is necessary. 

In the Philippines, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector has a system built-in for data security for banking as well as for healthcare services. Young Filipino workforce can be referred to as “digital natives” because they grew up with technology and they have a different approach which should be capitalized. 

Aging populations are accompanied by numerous demands thus a lot of work is needed. The Philippines is an ideal place to look for talents for healthcare service support, not just because of the young workforce but the country produces a lot of healthcare professionals. 

The next part of the forum was the panel discussion, moderated by Jesper Svenningsen, Executive Director of NordCham. The main goal of the discussion is to answer queries from the audience and to provide more insight on the Nordic health system and how it can be used in the Philippines. 


Main points made during the panel discussion: 

  • Building Trust to Healthcare System 

Trust in the healthcare system is also about trust in the society. The Nordic model is the basis of trust not just in healthcare but also in other aspects of governance. Trust can be developed over time. It has to do with accountability and transparency. 

Trust is also about what the public healthcare system looks like. In the Philippines there is an ambition to provide healthcare for all. At present, there are not enough resources for it, hence it should be made a priority. Prioritization is not just allotting money; it is also about efficiency. Being efficient meant turning away from how things are done and building processes to do it better. Streamlining and continuous improvement is also important. If the Philippines can provide a non-corrupt and efficient healthcare service, then trust will build up overtime. 

  • Privacy and Security of Personal Information for National Registry 

National Registry such as the National ID System in the Philippines contain a lot of data, thus there should be a consideration on privacy and security to prevent hacking and breaches. It is important that authorities continuously work in improving the security of the National Registry. This is not only to address privacy and security issues but to ensure efficiency of the system.  In Nordic countries, National Registry is very practical and serves as a one stop shop to avail government services. 

A system like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) used in the European Union (EU) can be implemented in the Philippines to address data privacy and security concerns. 

  • Favorite Way of Preventing Disease 

The ambassadors practice eating healthy, exercising and sleeping well as a way to prevent disease. 

In the professional aspect there is a push to increase occupational safety at work, such as subsidizing health club membership, increasing paternity leave, increasing wellness for mental health by providing experts so staff can talk about their concerns. 

It is important to note that the young generation or “digital natives” capitalize the data digitization consequently some launched wellness programs such as online yoga. 

  • Lowering of Standards for Healthcare Workers 

Currently Nordic countries are not seeing the lowering of professional standards for healthcare workers as it runs counter to their system. To climb the value chain is to increase the standard and education accordingly increasing skill set thereby providing increased delivered value. 


Final Remarks:

Ambassador Annika Thunborg, Embassy of Sweden Manila reiterated the importance of Universal Healthcare System and the Quadruple Helix Approach, where all sectors of the society are involved in moving the issues forward. She also highlighted the value of research and development conducted by both public and private entities; as well as the significance of population data and registry to the clinical infrastructure to be able to discover new solutions. Creating an environment where start-ups are encouraged to take risks to promote innovation was highlighted. 

Possible cooperation between the Philippines and Norway was mentioned by Ambassador Bjorn Staurset Jahnsen, Royal Norwegian Embassy Manila in his closing remark. 

As for Ambassador Juha Pyykko, Embassy of Finland Manila he believes that  in the long term welfare model pays off both to the government and its citizens. He mentioned the importance of going digital in the healthcare sector in today’s time. By going digital, it empowers doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide their utmost service to the patient. 

Health is important according to Ambassador Grete Sillasen, Royal Danish Embassy Manila. Any modern responsible state needs to take its citizens’ health in consideration. Healthcare should be a holistic approach and political will is needed to improve it. 

Mr.Williams, stated that the Philippines have a huge talent pool which can be capitalized but service providers should be responsible on how to utilize the said talents. He believes that going digital is the answer to most if not all of the challenges we are facing in the healthcare service. As the world is modernizing, the Philippines is also evolving to catch up and it needs the help of the Nordic countries who have an established healthcare system to be its partner in developing its own modern and efficient healthcare service that is available to all of its citizens.