Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper

Vision of universal health coverage by 2030

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Dr. Samir Kumar Saha :
Every year, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) day is commemorated on December 12 across the globe. A coalition of more than 700 organizations in 116 countries mark 12 December as Universal Health Coverage day, urging world leaders to deliver on promises to achieve universal health coverage.
The United Nations has adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals for eliminating poverty and building a more resilient planet. One of those goals includes providing universal health coverage.
The global coalition of leading health and development organizations worldwide is urging governments to accelerate reforms that ensure everyone, everywhere, can access quality health services without being forced into poverty. The coalition emphasizes the importance of universal access to health services for saving lives, ending extreme poverty, building resilience against the health effects of climate change and ending deadly epidemics.
Every person-no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have-should be able to access quality health services without suffering financial hardship. To achieve this vision of universal health coverage by 2030, we need collective action now.
The day aims to mobilize diverse stakeholders to call for stronger, more equitable health systems to achieve universal health coverage, leaving no one behind. The day has become the annual rallying point for the growing movement for health for all.
Universal health coverage means everyone can access quality health services without financial hardship. It is an inherently political goal rooted in the human right to health. It also makes economic sense. Health is a human right, that no one should go bankrupt when they get sick, and that universal health coverage underpins our collective security and prosperity.
WHO's constitution affirms that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right. More than half of the world's countries have included the right to health, public health or medical care in their national constitutions.
All people aspire to receive quality, affordable health care. UHC aims to achieve better health and development outcomes, help prevent people from falling into poverty due to illness, and give people the opportunity to lead healthier, more productive lives.
In recent years, the global UHC movement has gained momentum, with the World Health Assembly and the United Nations General Assembly calling on countries to "urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality healthcare services."
There is growing global consensus that universal health coverage is a smart investment and an achievable goal everywhere. Lack of affordable, quality health care traps families and nations in poverty.
According to WHO, universal health coverage has been included in the new Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. More than 100 low- and middle-income countries, home to almost ¾ of the world's population, have taken steps to deliver UHC. The emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS)-representing almost half the world's population-are all taking steps toward UHC. Countries implementing universal health coverage are seeing the benefits: healthier communities and stronger economies.
Every $1 that a country invests in health today can produce up to $20 in full-income growth within a generation. When health care is accessible and affordable, families can send their children to school, start a business and save for emergencies. Universal health coverage pays a resilience dividend. In times of distress, health minimizes the shock to lives and livelihoods. In times of calm, health promotes community cohesion and economic productivity. Health is a right, not a privilege.
UHC aims to achieve better health and development outcomes in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide the post-2015 agenda. SDG 3 includes a target to "achieve universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all."
The poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of preventable mother and child deaths, infectious and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease. To effectively fight these threats, we must reach everyone, everywhere, with health care.
In Bangladesh, traditional medicine can play an important role in ensuring healthcare of all if we can take necessary steps.   According to WHO, "Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being."
WHO launched the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014- 2023 for its academic promotion, quality production and mainstream integration into public health care to achieve universal health coverage.
So, inclusion of traditional medicine in the national health care system can play a complementary role to achieve the objectives of the universal health coverage. Its accessibility at door step of marginalized people will be very cost-effective and worthy in regards to population coverage and reducing financial burden as well. Since the beginning of human civilization, people used various plants and mineral as medicine in order to protect from diseases.  In the recent past, there has been a growing interest in Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) and their relevance to public health both in developed and developing countries.
Diversity, flexibility, easy accessibility, broad continuing acceptance in developing countries and increasing popularity in developed countries, relative low cost, low levels of technological input, relative low side effects and growing economic importance are some of the positive features of traditional medicine (WHO 2002).
In this context, there is a critical need to mainstream traditional medicine into our public healthcare to achieve the objectives of improved access to healthcare facilities.
In countries such as Bangladesh, India, China and many other parts of Asia one can observe traditional medical knowledge in various forms such as codified medical systems, folk systems, allied disciplines and new systems of knowledge.
In Bangladesh, Alternative Medicine Care (AMC) means Unani, Ayurvedic and Homeopathic system of medicine.
In India AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani and Sidhah) medical systems or Traditional Chinese medicine and Acupuncture in China, have evolved in a historical period spanning over 3-4 millennia with their own unique worldviews, conceptual, theoretical frameworks and elaborate codified literature.
For example, the oldest medical text of Ayurveda, Caraka Samhita is estimated to be written and redacted through various versions from 1,500 BC-200 AD. Such codified medical traditions have unique understanding of physiology, pathogenesis, pharmacology and pharmaceuticals, which is different from Western biomedicine. These medical systems have been professionalized since last millennia and have been integrated into the national health programmes.
There are problems prevailing in our health sector, which is hampering health services. There are many poor people, who are unable to take health services due to financial crisis. The day is an opportunity to put aside our differences and work together for a movement that brings benefits to people and patients and reduces poverty and promotes inclusive growth.   
On the occasion, it can be said that taking necessary steps on traditional system of medicine can contribute to healthcare of our people. It is hoped that authorities concerned would look into the matter.   
(The author is CEO of Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh & Founder President of AYUNS).

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