An annual event celebrated globally today or April 07, World Health Day was initiated by the World Health Organization or WHO in 1948 as a means to raise awareness about health issues and to promote better health practices around the world. Every year, a different theme is selected to highlight a specific health concern that needs to be addressed.
This year, the World Health Organisation will observe its 75th birthday. World Health Day is one of 11 official global health campaigns marked by the WHO, along with World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World AIDS Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Chagas Disease Day, World Patient Safety Day, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week and World Hepatitis Day.
This year, World Health Day 2023 will be focusing on the theme of Health for All. This theme is an opportunity to look back at public health successes that have improved the quality of life during the last seven decades. It is also an opportunity to motivate action to tackle the health challenges of today and tomorrow and to emphasise the importance of health equity and how it can be achieved through a collective effort.
The right to health is a basic human right. Health equity refers to the idea that everyone should have equal access to quality health services regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or location. However, in many countries, certain populations face disparities in health outcomes and access to health services, making it difficult for them to achieve optimal health. These disparities are often caused by systemic inequalities, such as poverty, lack of education, and inadequate access to healthcare. 30% of the global population is not able to access essential health services and almost two billion people face catastrophic or impoverishing health spending, with significant inequalities affecting those in the most vulnerable settings. Universal health coverage offers financial protection and access to quality essential services, lifts people out of poverty, promotes the well-being of families and communities, and protects against public health crises.
COVID-19 set back every country’s journey to universal health. Along with this and other health emergencies, overlapping humanitarian and climate crises, economic constraints, and war, the journey for every human being’s access to healthcare has become more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the stark differences in health outcomes between different populations. Research has shown that communities of colour, people living in poverty, and those in rural areas have been disproportionately affected by the virus. This disparity is due to a combination of factors, including a higher prevalence of underlying health conditions, inadequate access to healthcare, and limited resources to protect themselves from the virus.
To achieve health equity, we must address these underlying factors that contribute to health disparities. This can be done by implementing policies and programs that aim to reduce poverty, increase access to education and healthcare, and improve living conditions. It is also important to address systemic inequalities, such as racism and discrimination, which can have a significant impact on health outcomes.
One of the key ways to build a fairer and healthier world is through universal health coverage or UHC. UHC means that everyone should have access to quality health services without facing financial hardship. This can be achieved by providing access to essential health services, such as preventive and curative care, and by ensuring that everyone has access to affordable medicines and vaccines. By implementing UHC, we can help reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for all populations. It can also help to address the issue of “medical impoverishment,” where individuals and families face financial hardship due to high medical expenses. In addition, UHC can also help to improve overall health outcomes, reduce the burden of disease, and enhance economic growth and development.
Another important factor in building a fairer and healthier world is investing in research and development. This includes investing in the development of new and innovative treatments, as well as improving existing health technologies and medical practices. Research and development can also help to identify and address the root causes of health disparities, leading to more effective and equitable solutions. Additionally, strengthening health systems is also crucial in achieving health equity. This involves improving access to quality healthcare, increasing the availability of healthcare workers, and strengthening the management of health systems. By strengthening health systems, we can ensure that everyone has access to the care they need, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status.
Finally, it is important to prioritise the health of vulnerable populations, such as women, children, and the elderly. This involves addressing the specific health needs of these populations and ensuring that they have access to quality health services and adequate care. By prioritizing the health of vulnerable populations, we can help to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for all. Evidence shows that health systems powered by primary health care or the PHC approach are the most effective and cost-effective way to bring services for health and well-being closer to people.