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WHO, UN, Member States Highlight Urgent Need To Accelerate Progress To Achieve Universal Health Coverage

Between 2015 and 2021, the South-East Asia Region increased its Universal Health Coverage (UHC) service coverage index from 54 to 62

WHO, UN, Member States Highlight Urgent Need To Accelerate Progress To Achieve Universal Health Coverage
Universal Health Coverage Day is marked annually on December 12

New Delhi: Emphasising primary health care as its cornerstone, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations (UN) and its member states in the South-East Asia region highlighted the urgent need to accelerate progress towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The international organisations, along with the member states, highlighted the issue on the occasion of International Universal Health Coverage Day.

“At the regional level, the South-East Asia Region has prioritised UHC as a flagship priority since 2014. Over the last decade, very significant UHC-related reforms have been and are currently in the process of implementation across the region,” WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Khetrapal Singh, said, adding, “Important gains are already evident.”

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Notably, between 2015 and 2021, the region increased its UHC service coverage index from 54 to 62. Ms Khetrapal Singh noted,

Moreover, between 2014 and 2020, alongside an increase in the share of public investment, out-of-pocket health spending as a share of current health spending decreased from 42.8 per cent to 37.9 per cent. Moreover, while catastrophic health spending remains a key concern, the population is impoverished and further impoverished due to out-of-pocket health spending, which declined from 30.5 per cent in 2005 to 6.6 per cent in 2019.

However, she emphasised that the progress to date remains insufficient to achieve the UHC SDG targets.

Of particular concern, while noncommunicable diseases cause nearly two-thirds of all deaths in the region, the regional average noncommunicable diseases sub-index has evidenced the slowest pace of improvement.

Acceleration towards UHC is needed in a time of significant global turbulence, with escalating pressures and demands on health systems, including the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing global conflicts, subsequent and associated economic challenges, epidemiological and demographic transitions, intensifying climate crises, increasing frequency of new and novel pathogens, rapid urbanisation, the need for integration of historically siloed programmes and approaches, and increased population expectations collectively demanding more from health systems across the region.

Khetrapal Singh stressed,

Recognising contemporary challenges and opportunities, member countries of our region are committed to accelerating progress towards UHC through strengthening the foundation of primary health care.

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Universal Health Coverage provides a key platform for all technical departments to integrate our support into countries, she added.

Over a month ago, during the WHO SEA Region 76th Regional Committee, Session Ministers of Health adopted the “Delhi Declaration on strengthening primary health care as a key element towards achieving universal health coverage”.

She added,

Through the Delhi Declaration, health ministers of member countries committed to reorienting health service delivery systems based on a life cycle approach, with people and communities at the centre; to prioritise primary health care in health budgets; and to assure effective use of resources through strengthened systems for accountability and monitoring at national and sub-national levels.

Moreover, 11 years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), with leadership from countries of our region, endorsed a ground-breaking resolution urging all countries to accelerate progress towards the UHC. She emphasised,

Three years later, in 2015, UHC became the founding principle of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

For seven years, it remained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, globally, the expansion of service coverage has slowed before pre-2015 gains, with limited or no progress since 2019.

Also Read: World Bank Launches Climate And Health Initiative To Avert 21 Million Deaths By 2050

She said,

Currently, 4.5 billion people are not fully covered by essential health services. Trends in financial protection are also worsening, with an estimated 2 billion people suffering financial hardship due to out-of-pocket expenditure.

In September, underscoring the concern over the limited progress and investment in UHC, Heads of State and Government at the UNGA committed to scaling up national and international efforts.

Health for all has been a desired goal for countries in the region since the end of the colonial period.

The WHO regional director said,

Despite the challenges facing us, it has been within our reach. Countries in our region, through both political commitment and action, are showing the path forward for a healthier, more just, and more prosperous world. As we proceed towards the goal of health for all, a concerted focus on identifying and addressing health inequities with engagement of affected communities must remain at the forefront.

Moreover, the WHO is committed to providing its ongoing and unmitigated support, for a South-East Asia Region in which all people can access quality health services, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.

Also Read: Investment In Primary Health Care Cost-Effective Way To Achieve Universal Health Coverage: Mos Bharati Pawar

(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 in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. 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 populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation 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 well-being, 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 pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual 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.

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