World health day, to promote a precious asset, for everyone

World health day, to promote a precious asset, for everyone

April 06, 2018

World health day, to promote a precious asset, for everyone

April 7, world health day, is set to be an occasion to reflect on everyone's right to be healthy and stay in good health, but also to take steps forward towards achieving the goal of universal health coverage.

No-one should be forced to choose between buying medication and buying food” states Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), which supports and promotes World health day. The topic chosen for 2018 – “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere” – perfectly sums up one of the goals that the WHO has always placed at the heart of all its efforts, ever since its Constitution came into force 70 years ago. “Our organization was established on the principle that everyone should have the opportunity to exercise their right to obtain the best state of health possible” reads a statement on the WHO website.

Universal health figures 

The current situation is far from reassuring. A clear explanation of this is provided in the document entitled “Tracking Universal Health Coverage: 2017 Global Monitoring Report”, curated by the WHO and by the World Bank which was published in December 2017. At least half the world's population today does not have access to essential health services, approximately 100 million people are being pushed towards extreme poverty, forced to survive on less than 2 dollars a day, because of health expenses, with a direct effect also on the quantity and on the quality of food they can afford. As if that weren't enough, 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their household budgets on healthcare. This is not a problem only in poor countries: even the richest countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia are victims, although high levels of access to health services are achieved, but individual health expenses are constantly rising. “This situation is unacceptable” explains the Director-General of the WHO, who goes on to say: “And it is an avoidable situation. The solution is called universal health coverage". 

There are some good news too: according to the report, it would seem that there is a rise in the number of people in developing countries who can benefit from basic health services, such as vaccinations, family planning, and antiretroviral drugs for HIV and insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria prevention. However, this progress is not evenly distributed, a fact that highlights the many differences between countries that still need to be bridged. 


Investing on people

According to experts from the WHO, countries who invest in universal health coverage in actual fact invest in their human capital. Guaranteeing everyone's right to health is in fact something that goes far beyond healthcare or eliminating disease: it is a way to support people so they can express their full potential and achieve their ambitions. The slogan of World health day – “Health for everyone” – is also included in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, specifically in goal 3, namely to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. More specifically, goal 3.8 which aims to “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”. To achieve this goal, however, experts estimate that by the year 2023 a billion more people than today should be able to benefit from universal health coverage


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Everyone plays a part

Achieving universal health coverage is no simple feat, and it requires concrete, full-time commitment at all levels of society. For its part, the WHO undertakes to promote, throughout the whole of 2018, initiatives to raise awareness as to the importance of the topic, with three major objectives: to inspire, to motivate and to guide all the players involved. But all this isn't enough. We need the engagement of governments with strong political changes to improve health and to drive economic growth and social development. As the experts from the WHO state, we need health systems designed around people and for people; health services need to focus on satisfying the needs of individuals and of communities. These needs have to be identified and represented by organizations within civil society, where every individual should ensure his or her voice is heard, to ask for their right to health. Last, but by no means least, the role of the media, who could help raise awareness about universal health coverage, as well as the good practices of transparency and the evaluation of actions already under way. 


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