“Good health and good sense are two of life’s greatest blessings”– Latin writer Publilius Syrus
Since 1950, the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) have been observing April 7 as World Health Day to raise awareness about the need to improve global health. Getting access to necessary care is crucial to improve health. But according to WHO, at least half of the world’s population still does not have full coverage of essential health services.
Each year, WHO chooses a theme that showcases a priority area of public health. The theme of this year’s World Health Day is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere”. The slogan is “Health for All”. Universal health coverage (UHC) refers to ensuring that all people as well as communities have access to quality health services where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.
In any country, good health allows children to learn and adults to earn, and thus escape from poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development. WHO has reported that all UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, UHC does not mean free coverage for all possible health interventions, regardless of the cost. Each country is unique, and each country may focus on different areas, or develop their own ways of measuring progress towards UHC. Several countries are now making progress towards UHC by strengthening their health systems. Strong financing structures are crucial to prevent people from paying their health service costs out of their own pockets. Countries can also consider investing in the primary health care workforce to improve access to essential health care. Good governance, sound systems of procurement and supply of medicines and health technologies and well-functioning health information systems are other critical elements.
To achieve UHC, both the public and private sectors need to invest in health worker education, as well as in the creation and filling of funded positions in the health sector and the health economy. To monitor progress towards UHC, WHO focuses on the proportion of the population that can access essential quality health services and that spends a large amount of household income on health. To meet UHC goals, health workers must put their efforts to care and advocate patients and educate them on how to get and stay healthy. At the same time, individuals and communities need to be empowered to protect their own health.
Let us join hands together to make universal health coverage possible!
Happy World Health Day!