Universal Health Coverage Day 2021: “Protect and invest in health and care workers”

Providing health services to all

Equitable access to quality healthcare is a basic human right. Every year on 12 December, Universal Health Coverage Day is a time to renew global efforts to ensure people receive the health care they need, whenever they need it. 

On December 12, 2012, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) endorsed a resolution urging countries to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage – the idea that everyone, everywhere, should have access to quality, affordable healthcare – as an essential priority for international development.

On December 12, 2017, the UN proclaimed ‘December 12’ as International Universal Health Coverage Day by resolution . ‘Provision of universal health coverage’ has also been included in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the 2015-2030 period.

COVID-19 has severely disrupted progress in all areas of health and reminded us of the urgent need for coordinated action and strong health systems. Even before the pandemic, the number of people with catastrophic health spending was on the rise, the pandemic has only aggravated this trend.

The universal healthcare agenda can well address the barriers to access and improve the quality of care across all areas by avoiding catastrophic spending, ensuring more integrated coverage and encouraging governments to deliver services based on the principles of human rights and equity.

This day provide us an opportunity to make universal health care our priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of having a modern, well integrated public sector health care system. Health is not for profit.  
Health and care workers are the cornerstone of health systems and play a crucial role in advancing universal health coverage (UHC). The year 2021 has been dedicated to all health and care workers, this is an opportunity for everyone to join in the call to "Protect and invest in health and care workers."

Everyone everywhere deserves access to quality essential health services without suffering financial hardship. UHC Day is the annual rallying point for advocates to raise their voices and share the stories of the millions of people still waiting for health care, to call on leaders to make smarter investments in health, and to remind the world about the imperative of UHC.
UHC 2021's theme is “Leave no one’s health behind: invest in health systems for all”, and WHO/Europe will shine a spotlight on how health and care workers make this theme a reality, every day.Health and care workers are fundamental to UHC and to the smooth running of sustainable health and care systems.

Health is a basic human right. Providing health facilities to all the citizens is the responsibility of every state. Universal Free Health Care System and service is a popular idea throughout the world. Free Universal Health  Care service was integral part of Social Democratic welfare state established in most Western countries after the second world war. 

But with the rise of neoliberal capitalist ideology and free market policies since 1980s, the health services were privatised in many countries and private sector led health services became the new model. Health services became source of profit making for private sector and capitalist investors.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortcomings and problems of private sector led health services. The countries like china which has public sector led health system performed much better than the countries like America which has private sector led health system. 

Our health system is still at the tail end of the developed health system. An efficient, well functional and fully integrated health system is not seem our priority. We are not investing enough into our health system to provide every citizen with basic health facilities and services.

If we look at the numbers, we will find that we don’t stand anywhere in the first 50. The reasons for this sorry state are chronic  misgovernance, bad policies, neglect and other managerial, financial and implementation issues.

All successive regimes have their share in the undue neglect of the health sector. Our budgetary allocation for healthcare couldn’t rise above one percent. This apathy to the health sector dented public trust in the services provided by state-run facilities and the majority tilted towards the private sector.

This big patient thrust on the private sector has its toll too, resulting in high service charges, poor quality and malpractices. Unfortunately, the health sector regulatory mechanism, especially the private one, is far from satisfactory for obvious reasons, hence the plight continued.

Many countries have a single-payer healthcare system that is universal and state-funded. The government removes all competition in the market to keep costs low and standardise benefits. The health ministry controls what healthcare providers do and what they charge. Funded by taxes, there are no out-of-pocket fees for patients or any cost-sharing. This is called Free universal health care system. 

                                                               The Editor 

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