World Health Day 2019: Why is Universal Access to Healthcare Important?

Access to healthcare is vital to fruitful living, in the absence of which the quality of life deteriorates and mortality rates rise. Worldwide, there still exists a large percentage of the population with minimal or zero access to good healthcare. In order to address this concern, the World Health Organization decided to dedicate the World Health Day, which was celebrated on April 07, 2019 to providing Universal Health Coverage to all. In other words, it means that every person, everywhere, has access to quality healthcare without suffering financial hardship. In its annual report of global healthcare threats which need to be tackled in 2019, WHO emphasized on the rising levels of epidemics, lifestyle diseases like cancer and diabetes and viral diseases showing resistance to treatment. The only solution to this problem is to ensure that people anywhere do not have to make a choice between good healthcare and unfavourable financial condition. WHO is working towards achieving these goals by providing Universal Health Coverage, making essential and quality health care services (including both preventive and palliative care) accessible and affordable for all. Some of the main objectives to be accomplished for this include:

  • Ensuring healthcare reaches all parts of the population, irrespective of their financial position and background
  • Making sure that the quality of the health services provided is satisfactory and sufficient to improve their condition
  • Protection from any sort of financial risk as quality healthcare should be affordable and should not come with any price tag attached

Universal health coverage has a pertinent impact on a population’s healthcare as it entitles the people to be more productive and dynamic supporters to their families and communities at large. At the same time, financial hardship protection prevents people from being pushed into poverty or impoverishment when they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets. It is thus a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and a key element of any effort to improve the wellbeing of all the citizens. Health continues to remain a cornerstone of sustainable development and global security and universal access to healthcare is important because:

  1. No one should go bankrupt when they get sick- lack of affordable, quality health care can trap families and nations in poverty. After all, quality healthcare is a right, not a privilege and should not depend on where you live or how much money you have. According to WHO, the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right, and more than half of the world’s countries have included the right to public health or medical care in their national constitutions.
  2. Universal Health Coverage is attainable- 70 countries, including 30 of the world’s poorest, have passed laws toward Universal Health Coverage including India.
  3. Universal Health Coverage can help avert preventable maternal deaths and diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases like cancer and heart disease.
  4. Health transforms communities, economies and nations-money that families have to spend on health is money that can’t be spent on sending a child to school, starting a business or coping with an emergency