Nima Wangdi 

World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for intensified actions towards achieving ‘Health for All’ through universal health coverage (UHC) as the world marks World Health Day today.

WHO’s South-East Asia’s regional director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh in her address urged leaders to maintain and strengthen political and financial commitments to achieve UHC. She also urged accelerating momentum ahead of the second UN General Assembly meeting on UHC scheduled for September this year.

UHC is when all people can access the health services, when and where they need them without financial hardship.

She also said that in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, around 40 percent of the region’s population is unable to access essential health services. “Given the evidence and the urgency, the governments and society in the region should work intensely towards achieving UHC and Health for All – since 2014. It is one of the eight regional flagship priorities.”

‘Health for All’ is also a core pillar of the region’s vision to build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic and everyone must contribute.

Dr Poonam said that the Covid-19 crisis has also shown that investments in UHC and health system resilience underpin not just health, but social and economic security besides achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

She said policymakers and programme managers must continue to implement the region’s strategy for PHC. “Specific focus should be strengthening public health infrastructure, workforce, and financing and also increase equity for those at risk and left behind.”

She also wants the communities to actively voice the right to health by taking part in the local health decision-making process. Communities and individuals can play a key role in monitoring health services.

WHO wants all partners, donors, and other stakeholders in the region to go strong on UHC and Health for All, recognising that the PHC approach is the most effective, efficient, and equitable way to build national health systems.

Acting Health Secretary, Pemba Wangchuk, said the theme for this year’s World Health Day is a timely reminder for everyone to accord importance to health equity. “It’s a reminder of the importance of removing socioeconomic barriers to ensure that Bhutanese from all walks of life have timely access to quality people-centred healthcare services.”

He said, “We can reflect on the important roles that we can play as individuals, families, and communities in enhancing our health and well-being.”

“While the Ministry of Health and the government are mandated to promote health and to improve the delivery of health services, the general population can improve their health-seeking behaviour by accessing health services in a timely manner and avoiding habits that are harmful to health,” Pemba Wanghcuk said.