The Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region committed to prioritize investment in primary health care to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage.
“Prioritizing investments to strengthen primary health care, including health workforce, will accelerate progress towards achieving health for all and help realize health-related sustainable development goals, health security and equity promoting health systems,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia.
Dr Singh was addressing the Ministerial Round Table on ‘Strengthening primary health care as a key element towards achieving universal health coverage’, which culminated in Member countries and WHO signing the Delhi Declaration for strengthening primary health care.
The Declaration builds on the commitments of heads of state and government and Ministers of Health to strengthen primary health care as the most efficient and effective way to address evolving population health challenges in the Region. This is in line with the recent UN General Assembly Political Declaration on UHC and the G20 New Delhi Leaders Declaration on primary health care.
“We must seize the opportunity to build on the strong momentum generated to accelerate progress towards universal health care. This will ensure everyone, everywhere can access the health care and services they need, where they need, and without enduring financial hardship,” the Regional Director said.
Despite significant efforts by Member countries in recent years, affordable and quality health services remain a challenge. Almost 299 million people in the Region faced catastrophic health spending in 2017.
In the last ten years, the UHC service index in the Region improved from 47 in 2010 to 62 in 2021. The density of doctors, nurses, and midwives increased by over 30% since 2014. However, progress stalled or reversed between 2019 and 2021 in some countries mainly due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
To accelerate progress, the Declaration calls for prioritized and optimized investment in primary health care, including in multi-disciplinary and people-centered primary health care teams. It also calls for improving supply and logistics management to provide adequate, quality, and affordable medical products at the primary healthcare level.
The Declaration calls for efficient use of available resources through strengthened systems of governance, monitoring and accountability and the use of innovative technologies and data to enhance access and improve health service delivery.
“A robust primary health care-oriented system is the most efficient and equitable approach for achieving universal health coverage,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said. “By reorienting health services around a life course approach we can ensure people have access to health services throughout their lives,” she added.
We must increase community participation and ensure health care systems are designed around people with the flexibility to deploy available resources in the most efficient manner to meet the most pressing needs of the community, the Regional Director said.
Member countries also pledged to promote regional, national, subnational, and cross-country systems for collaboration, knowledge management and knowledge sharing to strengthen primary health care.
The ministerial round table was held on day two of the ongoing Seventy-Sixth Regional Committee Session for WHO South-East Asia Region, WHO’s governing body meeting in the Region.
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