Universal health coverage is the focus of World Health Day on Sunday, April 7th. It is also the World Health Organisation’s number one priority. But what is universal health coverage and what does it have to do with you?
Internationally, access to health care is seen as a basic human right and it’s also entrenched in the Bill of Rights in our own constitution. Universal health coverage means that everyone, everywhere, should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, and without health care costs causing financial hardship.
Yet about half of the world’s population still don’t get the health services they need and thousands are pushed into poverty every year by health care expenses. Expenditure by the government on quality health care – which teaches people how to look after their own health, and where health problems are diagnosed and treated early – is an investment not only in the health of individuals but also in society as a whole and, in the end, the country’s economy.
The foundation for universal health coverage is high quality and accessible primary health care. This has been shown to be the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure healthy communities. Primary health care is the care provided by health care workers and clinics directly within the community – close to where people live and work.
Primary health care includes the visits by health care workers informing people how they can keep themselves and their families healthy. They also identify health problems, refer people to the services they need, and follow up on and support those with long-term and chronic health problems.
Health care is your right and everyone deserves quality health care. Make use of the information and support your local health care worker can provide. Call on your leaders to ensure that the grassroots health services your community needs are available and staffed with enough skilled health workers to provide people-centred care.
Health is a political choice. You can be one of the voices to ensure that policymakers make health for all a reality through greater investment in primary health care.