The World and the UN celebrate "health for all"

To mark Universal Health Coverage Day, the UN shared the spotlight with the biggest sporting event in the world this week – the FIFA World Cup semi-finals.

In this sense, a dance and music event celebrated Health for All on the main stage of the FIFA Fan Festival in Doha, Qatar, on the eve of the first confrontation between Argentina and Croatia.

“Be Active: Bring the Moves for Health For All” was organized by FIFA, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Education Above All Foundation and the Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health, with special appearances by stars from the worlds of dance, music and football.

Speaking on the occasion, World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador and FIFA legend Didier Drogba said anyone can be active “for health in many ways, from physical fitness to the call for access to care for all”. “I am proud to lend my voice to both on Universal Health Coverage Day in Doha,” he said.

Europe: Threat of Inflation and War

On Universal Health Coverage Day, the European branch of the WHO warned on Monday that inflation and war are threatening the financial security of millions of people in Europe and said it fears that families will give up on health care due to the cost of living.

The WHO has called on countries to learn from previous shocks and prevent out-of-pocket payments for health care from pushing people into poverty this winter.

In countries where health budgets have suffered the biggest cuts, the proportion of people foregoing health care because of its cost has doubled, details a WHO analysis.

Financial hardship caused by direct payments has also increased in the region. Even before the current shocks, out-of-pocket payments for health care pushed up to one in ten households into – or deepened – poverty in some countries on the European continent.

In addition, 1 to 19% of households (depending on the country) had to face catastrophic health expenditures (out-of-pocket payments above 40% of remaining household income, once basic needs were met). Meaning they could no longer afford to meet other basic needs such as food, shelter and heating.

Difficult choices

Research shows that people on low incomes are the most likely to face catastrophic expenses, mainly related to the purchase of medicines and medical products.

According to Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, “Financial hardship can force people to choose between feeding their families, heating their homes, or getting the medicine they need.”

More broadly, evidence shows that after the economic crisis that followed the global financial crisis of 2008, cuts and slowing growth in public health spending led to staff shortages, longer waiting times and coverage restrictions in many European countries, widening inequalities in affordable access to healthcare.

For example, 6 countries have restricted the right to publicly funded health care, which generally affects people in precarious situations. According to the WHO, 17 countries have reduced the scope of health benefits and 24 countries have increased user fees.

As Europe grapples with war, a cost of living crisis and rising energy costs, WHO Europe is urging countries to learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis. thus acts to increase public spending on health and to give priority to the protection of the most deprived people.

Investing in health systems

To sustain progress towards universal health coverage, countries need to address health coverage gaps that typically affect low-income households. “To build a healthier society, governments must invest in health systems, especially in times of crisis, to ensure health for everyone, everywhere,” added Dr Kluge.

Furthermore, in the context of the war in Ukraine, people fleeing the conflict must have access to the full range of health services, including medicines, without administrative, communication or financial obstacles.

For those who remain in Ukraine, ensuring affordable access to healthcare is a challenge. The war threatens to reverse Ukraine’s progress in universal health coverage due to the worsening economic situation of most households.

However, changes in health financing policy, including coverage policy, may mitigate the effects for those in need.

The WHO argues in this regard that “people pushed into poverty by conflict must be protected from financial barriers and catastrophic expenditure, especially older people with chronic illnesses”.

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