Covid-19 could help build strong health systems: WHO

By Neetu Chandra Sharma
Through the declaration adopted at the ministerial round table, member countries committed to provide political leadership and accountability to advance health security and progress towards universal health coverage and the health-related SDGs. (REUTERS)

NEW DELHI : Learning lessons from the ongoing pandemic and emphasizing a once-in-a-century opportunity, countries of World Health Organization (WHO) Southeast Asia region on Tuesday adopted a ministerial declaration resolving to strengthen health system resilience to ensure health security, and achieve universal health coverage and Sustainable Development Goals for health.

“Strong health systems that are primary health care-oriented, and which leave no one behind, create populations that are healthier, more productive and financially secure. Resilient health systems are the bedrock of emergency preparedness and response, and ensure that when acute events occur, essential health services can be maintained," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO Southeast Asia, at a ministerial round table during the ongoing 74th regional committee meeting.

Through the declaration adopted at the ministerial round table, member countries committed to provide political leadership and accountability to advance health security and progress towards universal health coverage and the health-related SDGs.

The countries resolved to reorient health systems towards comprehensive primary healthcare through increased public investments, as the foundation for strengthening both public health emergency capabilities and achievement of universal health coverage.

“The pandemic has highlighted the urgency and importance of investment in human resource for health, especially at the primary healthcare level, and the need for adequate supply of affordable, effective, quality and safe medical products to ensure an effective response to public health emergencies and to build resilient health systems," the regional director said.

The declaration also commits to closer engagement with, and the empowerment of communities to maintain the delivery of essential health services and public health programmes during and after the pandemic.

To roll out effective response for at-risk and affected communities, member countries agreed to ensure integration of public health emergencies and disaster risk management strategies, as well as strengthening surveillance and preparedness capacity at the primary healthcare level.

Member countries additionally resolved to accelerate integration of non-communicable diseases including mental health, and other programmes, at the primary healthcare level, as well as establishing national quality standards for primary healthcare services and ensuring access to quality health services during the pandemic and recovery phase.

The member countries further agreed to appropriately leverage the potential of traditional systems of medicine, while optimizing innovations in digital health technologies.

The declaration emphasized the importance of leveraging additional resources and partnerships, including the important role of WHO, to support the development of national capacities to address public health emergencies and ensure the delivery of high-quality health services for all.


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