Yesterday was World Health Day, held each year to mark the World Health Organization (WHO)’s founding and to highlight a key issue relating to global health. This year, the focus is on achieving universal health coverage, in which “all individuals and communities receive the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship”. This goal is a top priority for the WHO and forms part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The WHO urges us all that “universal health coverage is possible, let’s make it happen!”
World Health Day aims to raise awareness of progress but also highlight how far we still have to go to achieve universal health coverage, acting as a call to action for the general public, healthcare workers and policymakers. Everyone should arm themselves with the information needed to take care of their own health, while lobbying leaders to deliver quality healthcare for all. In turn, policy makers should prioritise health through investment and data collection to improve targeting of resources.
As highlighted by the WHO, at least half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to essential health services. Nearly 12% of people worldwide spend at least 10% of their household income on healthcare, with costs pushing 100 million people into extreme poverty each year. Unsafe and low quality healthcare has a big impact on the global economy, costing trillions of dollars a year.
Achieving universal health coverage will require a concerted effort to progressively expand coverage as countries gain resources, building this on a foundation of high quality, accessible primary healthcare. In many cases, increased and restructured financing is warranted to make more treatments available and to train healthcare workers, who are particularly needed in lower- and lower–middle-income countries. Alongside this, public health measures and patient education are vital. The goal is to provide integrated care; treating people, not conditions.
The 2019 World Health Statistics Report, released for World Health Day, highlights the current state of universal health coverage and health systems. You can learn more about World Health Day here and join the conversation on social media using #HealthForAll. Health is a human right; help promote it for all!