Ask any child in the UK where we should go when we become ill and they will no doubt answer without hesitation, ‘the doctor’, but for children and adults in the developing world it isn’t quite that simple. At least half of the world’s population still do not have sufficient access to essential health services and having to pay for healthcare is forcing about 100 million people into extreme poverty (relying on 1.90 USD or less a day).
Equal access to care
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes in equal access to care, everywhere. That’s why the theme for this year’s World Health Day is universal health coverage (UHC).
Universal health coverage means access to quality health services without financial hardship – a basic human right – for everyone, everywhere. All UN member states have pledged to try to achieve UHC by 2030. This is a remarkable goal to aim for and the WHO plans to achieve it by improving primary health services, such as general practices or walk-in clinics.
Statistics from the WHO: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/universal-health-coverage-(uhc)
What does the WHO mean by ‘primary health services’?
As the first point of contact with the healthcare system, primary health services can reach and manage a spectrum of health concerns for all ages and respond to the ever-changing economic, technological, and demographic climates. Primary healthcare isn’t just about going to the doctor when you become ill; it’s about education to prevent the spread of disease and avoidable deaths. This can include provision of palliative care and comfort for those with incurable diseases. According to the WHO, a health system with strong primary healthcare delivers better health outcomes, is cost-efficient, and improves quality of care compared with health systems with less primary healthcare provision.
The WHO works with individual countries to identify priority health concerns and help develop strategies to tackle them. In addition, the WHO gathers comprehensive demographic data from across the globe including gender, age, and income to help identify and support people who are still not getting the healthcare they need. Its report on these data is released annually on World Health Day. World Health Day is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of equality in healthcare services, with a focus not only on individual health, but also on the economic and social factors that influence the provision of healthcare in different societies.
Understanding UHC – what it is NOT*
How do we move towards UHC?*
This requires strengthening health systems in all countries. Robust financing structures are key. When people have to pay most of the cost for health services out of their own pockets, the poor are often unable to obtain many of the services they need, and even the rich may be exposed to financial hardship in the event of severe or long-term illness. Pooling funds from compulsory funding sources (such as mandatory insurance contributions) can spread the financial risks of illness across a population.
Improving health service coverage and health outcomes depends on the availability, accessibility, and capacity of health workers to deliver integrated care. Investments in quality primary health care will be the cornerstone for achieving UHC around the world. Investing in the primary health care workforce is the most cost-effective way to ensure access to essential health care will improve.
*Taken from the WHO website, available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/universal-health-coverage-(uhc)
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In September this year, world leaders will be meeting at the United Nations General Assembly for a high-level meeting on UHC. We’re committed to helping the WHO build momentum towards this high-level meeting by signing-up here. If you too would like to add your support to this great cause, sign-up at the link above and help make UHC a reality.