The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has marked World Health Day, which falls on Sunday, with a reiteration of the UN’s stance on health: that it is a fundamental human right, not a privilege.
UNICEF/UN0281069/VishwanathanAn Auxiliary Nurse Midwife counsels a pregnant woman on institutional delivery while she examines her as part of Village Health and Nutrition Day in Shrawasti, India
Speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, during an event to launch the Day, the WHO chief said that all people deserve access to health services, “when and where they need them, without financial hardship.”
However, half the world’s population, he said, still lacks access to essential health services, with around 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. This is why the WHO is focusing on its number one goal this year: universal health care.
About 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization
The UN agency defines universal health care as meaning that all individuals and communities are able to access the health services they need – from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care – without suffering financial hardship.
When people are not protected from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets, they may have to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow, destroying their futures and often those of their children.
Achieving universal health coverage is one of the targets the nations of the world set when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015: good health provides the basis for long-term economic development, allowing children to learn and adults to earn, and helping people escape from poverty.
The WHO is calling on all countries to invest in primary health care, which Mr. Ghebreyesus described as the “bedrock of universal health coverage,” covering the majority of health needs throughout a person’s life, and keeping people out of