April 7, 2018 was World Health Day. The day also marked the 70th anniversary of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the body that has, over the past seven decades, spearheaded efforts to rid the world of killer diseases and fight against deadly habits.
Ghana will observe the day today because the World Health Day fell on a weekend. The theme for the observance is: ‘Universal health coverage: Everyone, everywhere’.
The Daily Graphic sees the message for the day: giving people access to health care without the prospect of financial hardship, as one that should be strongly relayed to our decision makers and the public because everyone deserves access to health care, regardless of where he or she is from.
To us, what matters is that there should be “Health for all”.
Universal health coverage (UHC) is about ensuring that people have access to the health care they need, without suffering any financial hardship. It also helps drive better health and development outcomes. It is, therefore, in the interest of the government to adopt strategies to ensure that there is access to health care for the populace.
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In Ghana, primary health care (PHC) is the agreed pathway for achieving UHC. PHC is the first level of contact of individuals, their families and communities with the national health system.
We note that the government has put in place the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and Community-based health planning and services (CHPS) strategies, two social protection initiatives that form the cornerstone of PHC in the country.
While Ghana may have chalked up some appreciable gains in efforts at achieving UHC, there is still some way to go to achieve the desired standards by 2030.
Government’s efforts at addressing geographical and social access and popular participation in health services, particularly in the rural areas, through the implementation of CHPS is, however, fraught with challenges.
There are currently over 200 uncompleted CHPS compounds scattered across the country, for which the government did not allocate resources to complete and equip in the 2018 national budget.
Issues of staff inefficiency, especially inequity in the distribution of health staff, appear to cut across many CHPS compounds and need reviewing.
It is our view that the changing demographics of urban areas must be taken into account to ensure that the benefits that the CHPS compounds were intended to bring on board accrue to urban populations, in view of the annual urban population growth rate of 4.5 per cent.
In addition to the CHPS strategy, the NHIS is faced with numerous challenges, including delays in reimbursing service providers, lack of coordination of policy issues related to health financing, insufficient focus on PHC-related concerns and lack of standardisation of services.
As we commemorate World Health Day, the Daily Graphic urges the government and other stakeholders to renew their commitment and double their efforts towards the realisation of UHC in Ghana.