New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked countries to recognize the importance of investing in primary healthcare-oriented systems, stressing that there is “no economic security without health security”. “Strong health system can better respond to health emergencies and health is fundamental to economic security. This has been amply demonstrated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO’s South-East Asia Region.
“There is no economic security without health security. Health and well-being for all, universal health coverage, and pandemic preparedness have complementary roles. Investments in primary healthcare-oriented systems are the most efficient and equitable approach to achieve these goals,” she said while speaking at the World Health Summit held in Berlin, Germany, from October 16-18.
Since 2014, the South-East Asia Region has prioritized health workforce strengthening as part of Regional Flagship Priority Programmes. The availability of doctors, nurses, and midwives has increased by over 30 per cent during this period which played a crucial role in the COVID-19 pandemic response, Dr Singh said.
It is well established that countries with sustained investments in primary healthcare – with communities at the centre – were able to identify cases and mount an effective public health response to the pandemic more quickly, she said.
The regional director said,
The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that was long anticipated by the global community. Yet the world was unprepared to deal with a pandemic of this scale. Preparedness is the key. We need to fill the gaps in the delivery of health services and health coverage.
To address gaps and prepare for the next pandemic, Singh stressed on investments and strengthening the six pillars of health systems; service delivery, health workforce, access to medical products, vaccines and technologies, health information system, and financing backed by political commitment at the highest levels.
Economic hardships on account of COVID-19, the current geopolitical crisis, and inflationary pressures have hampered recovery with decades of progress in health service delivery and poverty reduction stalled or reversed. The majority of the 71 million pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2020 reside in the Region, she said.
With history bearing testimony to the increase in frequency, diversity and scale of epidemics, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that decades of investments in expanding the health workforce and primary healthcare oriented health systems served as the foundation for countries to rapidly mount public health actions while maintaining essential health services with minimal disruption and allowing them to recover faster, she said.
“The cost of inaction is far greater than action,” Dr Singh said, adding there is strong and growing evidence that “health investment is a smart investment, which pays off by boosting economic performance and stability”. The regional director highlighted the importance of adopting and leveraging technology in health services and pandemic response.
“The pandemic demonstrated how interconnected the world is and how rapidly a virus can transmit from one country to another. A country with a weaker health system poses a threat to health and prosperity everywhere. Now more than ever, we must ensure that adequately financed and quality health services are extended to all,” she stated.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.