A call for leaders to invest in health systems

Universal Health Coverage Day is an official day designated by the United Nations, an annual rallying point for the growing global movement for health for all. It is a day that marks the anniversary of the historic and unanimous United Nations approval of universal health coverage in 2012. As proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, universal health coverage is celebrated every December 12.

On this day, people around the world are raising their voices and sharing the stories of millions of people waiting for health, calling on leaders to invest smarter in health, and reminding the world of the need for universal health coverage. Since the day’s celebration began in 2017, the day has aimed to raise awareness of the importance of strong and resilient health systems and universal health coverage. The theme for World Health Day 2021 is “Leaving No One’s Health Behind: Investing in Health Systems for All. ” It is a call to government, donors and leaders in all sectors to invest in health systems that leave no one behind. UHC Day is an opportunity to review progress and gaps in achieving a health-for-all system. It’s a day that focuses on what needs to happen next to move forward towards a healthier and more just world.

Universal health coverage is about ensuring everyone, everywhere, rich and poor, young and old, regardless of race or education, equal access to essential and quality health services, without financial hardship. , both in times of crisis and in calm. With UHC, people and communities can use preventive, palliative, curative and rehabilitative care with adequate protection against financial risks. Beyond achieving health for all, countries, including Nigeria, that progress towards UHC will progress towards other health and non-health goals. Economic development and employment contribute to it, thus increasing the growth rate of the country. Children can go to school and adults go to work, thus increasing the productivity of the workforce. Poverty is reduced, equity and shared prosperity are increased.

In order to pursue universal coverage, many countries have adopted health and health financing policies, legislative reforms, and committed new resources to expand their health services. In Nigeria, attempts to make health services affordable and free date back to pre-colonial and post-colonial times, when organized and unorganized health services were made available by religious missionaries, colonial administrators and post-colonial Nigerian indigenous leaders. independence. However, the first real effort in this regard is the creation of the national health insurance scheme in 1999 and its implementation in 2005. Although insufficient because only a very small proportion of the population has health insurance (less of five percent of Nigerians) and most health services are paid for by Nigerians out of pocket. Efforts are still needed to achieve universal health coverage in Nigeria.

The challenges to achieve an inclusive health system in Nigeria are many among which are inadequate government health funding i.e. low budget allocations, poor governance and poor implementation leading to inefficient spending and corruption, inadequate health infrastructure, the non-mandatory nature of NHIS, and poverty, making it difficult for low-income communities to purchase private health insurance. These obstacles to achieving UHC lead to an increase in the number of deaths from preventable or treatable infectious diseases. A 2019 UNICEF report indicates that Nigeria contributes the highest number of child deaths from pneumonia in the world. The disease can be prevented with vaccines and easily treated with antibiotics; however, due to insufficient funding for immunization programs and lack of access to essential medical care, pneumonia remains one of the leading causes of death in children under five. The unavailability of quality health services also drives the continued need to seek medical assistance in other countries, most of which are unaffordable for the average Nigerian. In addition, a poor health system contributes to the relentless brain drain of health professionals in the country.

To achieve universal health coverage, political will is essential. Strengthening the health system through adequate financing and financial management is essential. Sources of funding for UHC include budget allocation, tax revenues, risk pooling funding mechanisms such as health insurance schemes that cover both the private, public and informal sectors. The healthcare system in Nigeria is still funded by 4.5% of the total Nigeria 2021 budget allocation and health insurance which only covers government employees (public sector). It is imperative to invest in the primary health care system by ensuring equitable access to health services, as well as investments in medicines, technologies, infrastructure and an equitable distribution of qualified health workers so as not to leave any behind. on the health side, achieve health for all and prevent future pandemics such as the COVID-19 pandemic which has exposed long-ignored risks.

Global health researcher and writer Ms. Adegbite is a 400-level pharmacy student at the University of Ilorin.

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