April 5, 2019
Every year, 7 April is dedicated to health because it is World Health Day. This day of action has been celebrated annually since the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) on 7 April 1948, in order to raise awareness of one specific priority health problem faced by the world’s population.
As in 2018, this year's focus is on universal health coverage, defined as a state in which “all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship”.
According to WHO, half of the world’s population has no or only limited access to essential health services. The availability of health services is highly dependent on the region and its prosperity. This is reflected in the world's strongly fluctuating life expectancy. The average life expectancy of women in Africa is 64 years, while men have a life expectancy of 61 years. Hong Kong has the world's highest life expectancy with 87 years for women and 81 years for men.
But even if medical services are available, the problem is not solved. Another statistic from WHO states that over 800 million people spend at least ten per cent of their household budget on health care.2 In poor countries, people often cannot afford basic medical care. In some cases, they even have to choose between medical care and other expenses like food, clothing, education and living costs.
To achieve universal health coverage, the following four main criteria must be fulfilled in every region:
- a well-functioning health system
- affordability for everyone
- access to all necessary medicines and technologies
- an adequate well-trained health workforce.
This can be achieved through various factors such as education of medical professionals and the population, preventive measures, for instance inoculation, medical check-ups and early recognition, financial support, research and global cohesion.
I think I don’t go out on a limb when I say that health is the most important thing a person can have. Therefore, our common goal should be to ensure the best chance of good health for the whole world’s population. Let’s celebrate World Health Day and think about what we can do to make health for all a reality.