World Health Day 2019: Universal health coverage
April 7 is World Health Day, and this year the campaign is encouraging people to lobby for universal healthcare for all.
Seven decades ago the World Health Organisation was founded to help provide “health for all”. After 70 years its driving goal remains the same; provide universal healthcare for everyone, everywhere.
Universal health coverage is about ensuring all people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.
More than half of the people in the world today are unable to access essential health services. A further 100 million people are being pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.
Even in countries where universal health care exists, it’s not always so simple. Over 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household income on health expenses for themselves or a sick child or family member.
What World Health Day means for the UK
At first glance it may seem as though this year’s theme doesn’t apply to people living in the UK, who have access to the NHS and have enjoyed universal health care since 1948.
The UK often ranks first or among the top countries in the world for its healthcare system, and we’re so used to such a high level of care that it’s easy to take for granted the wonderful services we have access to.
But still in richer countries in Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia that have high levels of access to health services, increasing numbers of people are spending at least 10% of their household budgets on out-of-pocket health expenses.
The NHS is an important part of our national identity in Britain, but the rising cost of healthcare, austerity, budget cuts and tough working conditions mean the NHS is under dangerous strain.
People are struggling more and more with huge wait lists to see specialists, long wait times in A&E and full GP practices that won’t take on any new patients.
More patients are choosing to go private to get access to tests like cancer screenings and services they need like therapy. But for many, going private simply isn’t an option financially.
There’s never been a more important time to fight to protect and enrich our national health services and to lobby government to maintain the NHS and continue to improve it.
World Health Day is a wonderful reminder both of how privileged we are in the UK to have the NHS and how important it is to protect it and fight to make it a priority in parliament.
What do you think about the NHS? Have you had to pay out of pocket for health services in recent years? Share your experiences in the comments below.