Sustain and prioritize investments in primary healthcare-oriented systems – World

New Delhi | October 18: Strong health systems are better able to respond to health emergencies, and health is fundamental to economic security. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown this. Given the high risk that countries will scale back investment in health to pre-COVID-19 levels, the World Health Organization has urged countries to recognize the importance of investing in health, particularly in primary health care.

“There is no economic security without health security. Health and well-being for all, universal health coverage and pandemic preparedness play complementary roles. Investing in primary health care-centric systems is the most efficient and equitable approach to achieve these goals,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, speaking at the World Health Summit.

Since 2014, the Southeast Asia region has prioritized health workforce strengthening as part of regional flagship priority programs. The availability of doctors, nurses and midwives has increased by over 30% during this period, playing a crucial role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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It is well known that countries with sustained investments in primary health care – with communities at the heart – have been able to identify cases and initiate an effective public health response to the pandemic more quickly.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that the global community had long been waiting for. But the world was not prepared to deal with a pandemic of this magnitude. Readiness is key. We need to close the gaps in the delivery of health services and health insurance,” said the regional director.

To close gaps and prepare for the next pandemic, the Regional Director emphasized investing and strengthening the six pillars of health systems; Service delivery, health workforce, access to medical products, vaccines and technologies, health information systems and financing, supported by high-level political commitment.

Health care needs of all countries are expected to increase in the future due to underlying changes in population growth, increased life expectancy and increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases and injuries.

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Economic difficulties stemming from COVID-19, the current geopolitical crisis and inflationary pressures have hampered the recovery as decades of progress in health service delivery and poverty reduction have stalled or reversed. The majority of the 71 million pushed into extreme poverty by the end of 2020 live in the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic, witnessing the increase in the frequency, variety and scale of epidemics, has shown that decades of investment in health workforce growth and primary health care-centric health systems provide countries with the foundation for rapid public health expansion Measures were taken while maintaining essential health services with minimal disruption and allowing countries to recover faster.

“The cost of inaction is far greater than that of action,” said Dr. Khetrapal Singh, adding, “There is strong and growing evidence that investing in health is a wise investment that pays dividends by enhancing economic performance and stability.”

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The Regional Director stressed the importance of adopting and utilizing technology in healthcare and in responding to pandemics. Sri Lanka’s health information system was the first in the world to be adapted to enable real-time surveillance of COVID-19, and India’s COWIN platform facilitated the delivery of vaccines to over a billion people.

“The pandemic has shown how interconnected the world is and how quickly a virus can spread from one country to another. A country with a weaker health system endangers health and prosperity everywhere. Now more than ever we need to ensure that adequately funded and quality health services are available to all,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

media contacts

Shamila Sharma
Public Relations and Advocacy Officer
WHO Regional Office South East Asia
Mobile: +919818287256
Email: [email protected]


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