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WHO: New approaches needed to protect patients

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Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia

NEW DELHI : Quality health care services for patients at community level, without financial hardship, are fundamental to advancing universal health coverage, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

On World Health Day, celebrated every year on April 7, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, said,  “A well-functioning primary health care system that meets most of a patient’s health needs, throughout the life course, is central to universal health coverage.”

Dr Singh stated, “As a large share of OPD patients is delivered by private hospitals and financed by out-of-pocket payment, we need new approaches to address the double challenge of protecting patients from financial exploitation and poor-quality health care, while harnessing the private sector’s extensive assets.”

In the WHO South-East Asia Region, universal health care has been a flagship priority programme since 2014. The region has seen encouraging progress, with necessary health care service coverage improving in all member countries, along with the availability of doctors, nurses and other health staff.

There is also growing inter-country cooperation to get better access to quality medicines through the South-East Asia Regulatory Network, Dr Singh said.

The regional director claimed, “Despite progress, around 800 million people still lack full coverage of essential medical services and at least 65 million people are pushed into poverty every year because of health spending, most of which goes on medicines.”

Community and local government representatives are key partners in building healthy communities. Digital technologies could be better leveraged to empower citizens and communities to look after their own health, she said.

The theme of the World Health Day this year is Universal Health Coverage, ‘Health for All: Everyone, Everywhere’.


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