Countries urged to strive for universal access to good quality health to spur economic growth

Brazzaville, 6 April 2018 - The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has urged African countries to strive towards universal access to good quality health care to spur economic growth, development and prosperity across the Region.

Dr Moeti was speaking at an event to commemorate this year’s World Health Day in Brazzaville, Congo. The event also marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of WHO.

“Effective leadership and high-level political commitment are critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Universal health coverage will contribute to healthier, more productive populations: when people have better health, they are more productive and live longer,” she said.

World Health Day, celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization. It provides a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world. The theme for this year is Universal Health Coverage: Everyone:Everywhere.

UHC means ensuring that everyone – no matter where they live or who they are – can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship. It is a powerful initiative that ensures health for all, enhances health security, reduces poverty and promotes gender equality.

Although the African Region has experienced improvement in health outcomes and access to treatment and essential services over the past 70 years, much more needs to be to done to stem the increase in non-communicable diseases, address new threats such as Zika, and epidemics like Ebola and cholera. There is also a need to address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance and counterfeit medicines.

The Regional Director called for adequate and sustained investment in health to ensure equitable access to health services. “Central to this is the issue of adequate and timely payment of health workers, and incentives to encourage health workers in rural and remote areas. Better working environments and living conditions will motivate health workers”, she said.

In his remarks, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah stressed the importance of integration, collaboration and partnerships in attaining universal health coverage and the sustainable development goals. He noted that better health outcomes can be achieved by investing in other complimentary sectors: education, nutrition, shelter, human rights etc.

“It is therefore imperative that as UN and especially as UN Country Team, we pull together to joint analysis, and provide integrated response that will allow us to help our programme countries towards achieving the SDG3. We must think differently, probably not as sector experts but development practitioners, and act together for better response,” he said.

Drawing attention to the right to good health as an important catalyst for achieving the SDGs, Mr Ohemeng-Boamah noted that everyone has a right to good quality health which is the gateway to education, gainful employment, freeing oneself from poverty and a fundamental element in achieving a wholesome society.

He told participants that to attain viable UHC, the issue of sustainable funding must be addressed and health care systems should have depth and breadth in the provision and availability of services as well as the right balance between prevention, care and behavior changes.

The event was attended by Heads of UN agencies, the media and staff at the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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