World Health Day: Universal health coverage for everyone, everywhere!

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By Dr. Pedro J. Villegas

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits”.   –Thomas Jefferson–

World Health Day is celebrated on April 7. In 1948, the First World Health Assembly proposed the establishment of a World Health Day, to commemorate the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is how it has been celebrated since 1950. Therefore, “Health for all” has been the vision that has guided WHO for more than seven decades. It is also the engine of the current initiative promoted throughout the Organization to help countries move towards Universal Health Coverage. It’s the basis of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)#3: Good Health and Well-Being.

The World Health Day is seen as an opportunity by WHO to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year. The WHO organizes international, regional and local events on the day related to a particular theme. World Health Day is acknowledged by various governments and non-governmental organizations with interests in public health issues; WHO also organizes activities and highlights their support in media reports.

Progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world. But millions of people still have no access at all to health care facilities that they deserve. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home. This is why WHO is focusing on universal health coverage for all this year’s World Health Day.

Universal Health means that all people have access, without any kind of discrimination, to comprehensive quality services, wherever they need them, without facing financial difficulties. It requires the definition and implementation of policies and actions with a multisectoral approach to address the social determinants of health and promote the commitment of the whole society with health and well-being. Universal health is not just about ensuring everyone is covered, but that everyone has access to care when they need it, wherever they are.

As an expression of Health for All in the XXI century, universal health requires the involvement of all sectors of society in order to combat poverty, social injustice, educational gaps, and poor living conditions, among other factors that influence people’s health.

Universal Health Coverage has been stated as WHO’s number one goal. Key to achieving it is ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community. Unfortunately, here in Belize we need more commitment to fulfill these expectations. How comes that the only one health facility in the west, Benque Viejo Community Clinic only opens from Monday to Friday and from 8:00 to 5:00 PM? What expectations have people from Arenal, Calla Creek and Corozalito without access to health in their villages?

There is no way we in Belize can accomplish the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals by the year 2030, and other objectives for the region if we continue to deprive our people from a fair opportunity unjustly and unconstitutionally to participate in the administration of our country and the access to decent health services.

Every Belizean has a right to voice their concerns, regardless of your social standing. Our constitution allows us the freedom of speech. As citizens, we need to demand that our Governments give Benque Viejo Town and the entire Cayo West Constituency what we rightfully deserve: a better health care system. The improvement of our health services is not an alternative, it’s an imperative to improve the quality of life of Belizeans living here!

World Health Day is one of eight official global health campaigns marked by WHO, along with World Cancer Day (February 4), World Tuberculosis Day (March 24), World Immunization Week (April 24-30), World No Tobacco Day (May 31), World Blood Donor Day (June 14), World Hepatitis Day (July 28) and World AIDS Day (December 01).

Everyone has a part to play, sparking conversations and contributing to dialogue on policies that can help our country achieve and maintain a better health care system. This year, World Health Day, marks the end of the World Health Organization’s 70th anniversary celebrations. In the Region of the Americas, these celebrations have been framed around universal health, under the theme “Universal health: Everyone, Everywhere”. This campaign is also focused on equity and solidarity, addressing barriers to access of health and health services, with the goal of improving an understanding of universal health, and promoting actions that contribute to make it a reality.

You can reach your own conclusions.

God bless Belize!

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