World Health Day: The push for universal healthcare coverage

Doug Hendrie

6/04/2018 2:22:46 PM

It’s 2018 and half of the world’s population does not have access to the healthcare services they need.

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WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus believes, ‘No one should get sick and die just because they are poor’. (Image: Ronals Wittek)

One hundred million people are being ‘pushed into extreme poverty’ – living on $1.90 a day – because of the cost of ongoing healthcare, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Eight hundred million people spend at least a tenth of their household incomes on healthcare. Perhaps a child is injured in a car crash, or an older person develops cancer. The cost can be ruinous in countries without widespread healthcare coverage.
Saturday 7 April is the WHO’s World Health Day – a reminder of the work yet to be done in achieving universal health coverage. The WHO, which hosts the awareness day, has been working for seven decades to move the needle on healthcare access.
The organisation’s current goal: achieve access for one billion more people by 2023, in line with the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. While this may seem ambitious, many countries are moving towards extending healthcare. All 193 member states of the United Nations have agreed to work towards universal coverage by 2030.
‘Experience has illustrated, time and again, that universal health coverage is achieved when political will is strong,’ the WHO states.
Healthcare coverage, according to the WHO, is a proven investment in human capital.
‘In recent decades, [universal health coverage] has emerged as a key strategy to make progress towards other health-related and broader development goals,’ the WHO states.
‘Access to essential quality care and financial protection not only enhances people’s health and life expectancy, it also protects countries from epidemics, reduces poverty and the risk of hunger, creates jobs, drives economic growth and enhances gender equality.’
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus believes people should not have to make a decision between financial hardship and possible death.
‘Health is a human right. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need,’ he has said.
‘No one should have to choose between buying medicine and buying food.’
The WHO defines universal coverage as the ability for all people to receive the healthcare they need without suffering financial hardship. It does not, however, mean that all healthcare interventions must be free.

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