– Maithreyi Chappidi

How do you remember your childhood? When you had a fever, did your parent/guardian take you to a doctor? Someone with medical training examining you and taking a bunch of medicines? What about dreading going to a doctor because you know they will give an injection? This is a situation not everyone can experience, more than half the world do not receive adequate medical services. It can be due to distance from a medical professional, financial cost, or a major disaster preventing the provision of services. World Health Day is held every year on April 7th by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 1950. The theme of this year’s World Health Day is “Universal Health Coverage Everyone, Everywhere.” The goal being that every individual gets the health care that they need, when they need it, where they need it without financial hardship.
Catastrophic spending on health is defined as out of pocket spending beyond a household’s ability to pay and impoverished spending that occurs due to an adverse health event when a household must divert money spent on food, shelter, and clothing to such an extent that it is below the amount indicated by the poverty line. This level is set at around 10 and 25% of a household’s budget. In 2010, 808 million people exceeded the 10% limit, and a further 179 million reached the 25% threshold. Of that staggering figure at the 10% threshold, 103 billion people were from Asia. According to the WHO, approximately 1% of India’s GDP was spent on healthcare by the government; Southern Asia has the second lowest UHC coverage globally.
As a nation, we have made great strides in vaccination efforts, providing school meals, spreading knowledge and treatment services for malaria and tuberculosis, but this is still the start of the journey to UHC – not when we have so much more ground to cover on this path. Not when a significant portion of the population relies on medical camps for their healthcare needs. Not when the majority of the population pays completely or near completely for their healthcare, without assistance from health insurance, subsidies, or government programs. Not when people are afraid of getting a rash or a cough checked out because of the cost of seeing a doctor, getting imaging, bloodwork, or filling a prescription for medication. Not when difficulty reaching a hospital is still a cause of maternal and infant mortality. Not when malnutrition is still a reality for many.
Achieving Universal Health Coverage, requires a holistic approach and having government support in the form is an integral component of it – from preventive health care efforts, to societal awareness of the situation, to providing coverage of basic services. In support of this year’s theme, take a moment to visit the WHO page, read more about how we can make a difference, and spread the word – #UHC. We have the power, now we need to ACT.

References:
1. Tracking universal health coverage: 2017 global monitoring report: executive summary. World Health Organization and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2017(WHO/HIS/HGF/17.2). Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
2. World Health Day 2018. Accessed April 01, 2018. http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2018/en/.

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