Member countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region have made a commitment to prioritize investment in primary healthcare to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.
The Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, stated that this investment will help achieve health-related sustainable development goals.
“By prioritizing investments in strengthening primary healthcare, including the health workforce, we can speed up progress towards health for all and achieve health-related sustainable development goals, health security, and equity in promoting health systems,” she explained.
Dr Singh made these remarks during a ministerial roundtable on ‘Strengthening primary healthcare as a key element towards achieving universal health coverage,’ where members countries and WHO signed the Delhi Declaration for strengthening primary healthcare.
The declaration builds on the commitments made by heads of state and government and ministers of health to strengthen primary healthcare as the most efficient and effective approach to address evolving population health challenges in the region.
This aligns with the recent United Nations General Assembly Political Declaration on UHC and the G20 New Delhi Leaders Declaration on primary healthcare.
Dr Singh emphasized the need to capitalize on the momentum generated to accelerate progress towards universal healthcare. By doing so, everyone will be able to access the necessary healthcare and services without financial hardship.
Despite the significant efforts made by member countries in recent years, affordable and quality health services remain a challenge. In 2017, nearly 299 million people in the region faced catastrophic health spending.
Dr Singh noted that the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) service index in the region has improved from 47 in 2010 to 62 in 2021. Additionally, the density of doctors, nurses, and midwives has increased by more than 30% since 2014.
However, progress has been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with some countries experiencing a stall or reversal in progress between 2019 and 2021.
The declaration calls for prioritized and optimized investment in primary healthcare, including multi-disciplinary and people-centered primary healthcare teams, in order to accelerate progress. It also emphasizes the need to improve supply and logistics management to ensure the availability of adequate, quality, and affordable medical products at the primary healthcare level.
Dr Singh also stressed the importance of increasing community participation and designing healthcare systems around people, with the flexibility to allocate resources efficiently based on the most pressing needs of the community.
Member countries have also pledged to promote collaboration, knowledge management, and knowledge sharing at the regional, national, sub-national, and cross-country levels to strengthen primary healthcare.
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