THD News Desk, GENEVA: Asia Pacific delegates convened at WHO’s ‘Joint Ministers of Finance and Health Symposium on Universal Health Coverage in Asia and the Pacific: COVID-19 and Beyond’ to deliberate on ways to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Health and Finance ministers from across the Asia Pacific region expressed to their commitment to forging robust health systems at the virtual meeting co-organized the Government of Japan and the Asian Development Bank. The prime purpose behind the arrangement was to come up with financially feasible ways of simulating universal health coverage (UHC) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For every dollar invested in universal health coverage, the return is delivered many times over – first, due to increases in overall population health and well-being and the productivity, jobs and poverty-reduction they promote; and second, because when the quality and reach of health services improves, health systems become more resilient and can better mitigate or manage acute threats while maintaining essential health services”,
said WHO South-East Asia Regional Director, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh contending in favour of universal health insurance.
Recognizing the significance of strengthening our public healthcare sector, WHO South-East Asia Region has been rendered UHC as one of its flagship initiatives. Moreover, the 2019 Delhi Declaration on Preparedness and the Region’s Declaration on Collective Response to COVID-19, were chosen as key ministerial declarations. The declarations are devoted to building regional solidarity among the 11 member countries in the pursuit of constructing efficient health systems.
“We have to build health systems where people from all walks of life, including the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, can access health services at an affordable cost while maintaining their financial sustainability—even in ageing societies that many countries in Asia and the Pacific are heading toward,” he said. “In this regard, close collaboration between finance and health ministers is crucial for our member economies to provide both cost-effective, inclusive, and high-quality health interventions, underpinned by sustainable finance.”, proclaimed the ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa exhibiting support to WHO’s agenda of ensuring free health care for all in most countries.
Learning from the lessons generously provided during the ongoing pandemic, national governments have now acknowledged the need for financially resilient, efficient primary health care systems. States with strong health systems like Bhutan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia have demonstrated how having a fully functional primary healthcare system in place benefits governments in tackling health crises in the long run. These countries are seen to be leading by example as they could promptly restrict the spread of the pandemic, whilst ensuring the safety of health workers at the frontline too. The pandemic has necessitated the stringent adherence of WHO’s recommendations and learning from the strategies employed by successful countries.