An inclusive plan for healthcare systems to be built back better

Synopsis: Need to strengthen and transform our health systems by making them more equitable, resilient and sustainable for all.

Introduction

Countries in the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Region, continue to respond to the pandemic aggressively, battling new and more transmissible variants.

In addition to covid-19, the region faces a range of pressing threats, from emerging and re-emerging diseases to natural disasters and climate-related weather events. For instance, in 2021 alone, India, Indonesia and Timor-Leste have had to respond to floods. Indonesia and Nepal responded to earthquakes.

In all countries of the region, the need of the hour is to strengthen capacities to prevent, prepare for, respond and recover from covid and other health emergencies, and to accelerate progress in all areas of health.

Why resilient health systems are important?

Resilient health systems are the bedrock of emergency preparedness and response, and ensure that when acute events occur, essential health services can be maintained.

Strong health systems that are primary health care (PHC)-oriented, and which leave no one behind, resulting in populations that are healthier, more productive and financially secure.

What are the action plans agreed by the south Asian member countries?

Action plans agreed by South Asian member countries at the 74th Session of the WHO Regional Committee to build back better essential health services:

First, full recognition of the need for a health-in-all-policies approach that addresses social, economic and environmental determinants of health, and which empowers communities. Governance of the health sector in particular will be strengthened, including through greater oversight and engagement with the private sector and civil-society organizations.

Second, increased public investments in health that are allocated towards strengthened PHC services, enhanced human resources for health, and increased access to essential medical products. Investment in PHC could also accelerate progress on other SDG targets, like zero poverty, decent employment and gender equality. Since 2019, the WHO has advocated that all countries globally increase spending on PHC by at least 1% of gross domestic product.

Third, better integration of health emergency and disaster risk management strategies, as well as public health emergency preparedness and response capacities, with PHC services. This will help in reducing response times, empowering local networks, and responding to on-the-ground needs as and when they arise.

Fourth, taking advantage of the potential of traditional systems of medicine, as well as key innovations in digital and disruptive health technology.

Fifth, strengthening partnerships. Covid has shown that robust and reliable bilateral, multilateral and public–private partnerships are critical to emergency responses and to maintain essential health services. Such partnerships will also aid in supporting India’s overall vision that is cohesive, and which is aligned with our long-term targets and goals.

Source: This post is based on the article “An inclusive plan for healthcare systems to be built back better” published in Livemint on 4th Oct 2021.

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