Let’s work towards universal health coverage

BY: Daily Graphic

April 7 reminds the world of a very important day that has direct effect on man’s existence and well-being.

The day is World Health Day, which is celebrated globally to create awareness of health.

During the past 29 years of its celebration, the world has taken opportunity of the day to draw worldwide attention to various subjects of major importance and through that major decisions on health have been taken by governments and non-governmental organisations to address issues of health that affect the world.

Generally, the day serves as the launch for a long-term advocacy programme whose activities are undertaken and resources provided for such activities well beyond the April 7 date.

The Daily Graphic sees this year’s theme: “Universal health coverage: Everyone everywhere”, as very appropriate, since universal health coverage is the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) first-priority goal in ensuring that all persons obtain the care they need, when they need it and right in the heart of their communities.

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No wonder, therefore, that Goal 3 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been dedicated to good health and well-being.

It is pleasant to note that a lot of progress has been made in access to health in all regions of the world, but millions still have no access to health care.

Even those who have access are forced to choose between healthcare expenses and basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

The Daily Graphic is proud to state that although Ghana has not reached the ideal, it has made great strides over the years in terms of providing health care for its population, as well as ensuring that health care is brought to the doorstep of the people.

We can cite the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Community-based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compounds established across the country as approaches that have tremendously improved health delivery in Ghana.

This is especially impressive viewed against the background that the CHPS system targets remote areas of high need to deliver cost-effective and quality primary-care services to individuals and households.

Judging from the country’s resources, we are happy that about eight per cent of the total budget is allocated to health.

But we are mindful of the pledge by African Union countries in 2001 to set a target of allocating at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improve the health sector, a target which, unfortunately, many of the countries have not been able to meet.

On this basis, we entreat the government to work harder at the management of the economy, so that more resources can be allocated to the health sector as the Ministry of Health implements its policy of bridging the equity gaps in geographical access to health services, as well as ensuring sustainable financing for healthcare delivery and financial protection for the poor.

To ensure access to health, we again ask the authorities to work at expanding coverage of the NHIS to include the totality of all diseases at all stages.

We say this because although the scheme is known to cover many diseases, the reality is that providers give partial treatment of some diseases.

We should let this year’s theme continue to ring in our ears, so that we work towards it to be able to say boldly that we are on course to achieving the SDGs.