To achieve SDG vision, revive and adapt primary health care services and monitor access inequalities: WHO
“There is an urgent need to revive and adapt frontline services and health workers to meet today’s needs. By doing this countries can accelerate public health gains, including by reducing maternal and child mortality and strengthening health security. They can also tackle looming challenges such as the increased burden of noncommunicable diseases. Though efforts across the Region have been commendable, countries must strengthen their delivery of patient-centered, integrated care to drive further gains and ensure no one is left behind,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said.
Despite progress, gaps in health services coverage in the Region continue to exist. At least 130 million people still lack access to one or more of seven essential health services, with access to care worse for the poor, those with less education and, to a lesser degree, those living in rural areas.
“Enhancing the skills of health staff is an important means for countries to strengthen primary health care and ensure essential services are available. This can be done through ongoing training initiatives that equip health workers and health teams with the skills needed to address a range of health issues, including identification and care of chronic conditions. Equally important are efforts to increase health worker retention, particularly in rural areas,” she said. “Careful attention must be paid to the distribution of health workers’ skill-sets across the health system to ensure all communities, regardless of location, can access essential services.”
Khetrapal Singh also noted the need to establish sustainable financing for frontline services, saying an important way for countries to strengthen primary health services is to ensure they are equitably and efficiently financed.
“As service delivery models change it is essential that both prevention and treatment receive adequate resources and funding. Strategies must be linked to resource flows so that communities can rely on frontline services for a range of health issues,” the Regional Director emphasized.
As countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of health and wellbeing for all, the development of country-specific targets and implementation of effective monitoring systems is vital. Almost all countries have now developed their own targets, while all of them have measured and reported progress using two indicators – one tracking health services coverage; the other tracking financial risk protection.
“Countries in the Region are taking the steps needed to set and achieve their goals, including by monitoring progress. Better national health data – including input from both public and private facilities – and more in-depth analysis will provide the insight needed to act as efficiently as possible,” Khetrapal Singh said.
The Regional Director expressed WHO’s commitment to produce an annual report on progress towards universal health coverage and the health-related SDGs, which is a key agenda item at the Seventieth session of the Regional Committee currently being held in Maldives. The Regional Committee is the highest decision-making body for public health in the South-East Asia Region, and includes health ministers and senior health ministry officials of the Region’s 11 Member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.