The following is an address delivered by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) as Nevis joins the international community in the observance of World Health Day 2019.
As we join the rest of the world in observing World Health Day on April 7th, we are reminded of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights: article 25 which states “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family and this includes medical care.”
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) statistics indicate that at least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services; about 100 million people are still being pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health care, and over 800 million people spent at least 10 percent of their household budgets to pay for health services.
In St. Kitts and Nevis it is estimated that 70 percent of our population is uninsured, and many individuals and their families resort to approaching government for medical assistance. Our national health accounts report in 2011, revealed that household out-of-pocket spending accounted for 55 percent of total health expenditure, and persons still don’t seek access to certain health services because of their inability to pay.
This year’s theme “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere” is therefore timely as the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis moves towards advancing the implementation of Universal health care for its citizens and residents.
Universal health coverage (UHC) according to WHO means all people and communities can receive the preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, without suffering financial hardship.
In 2005, the WHO further advocated its support for universal health care with the signing of the World Health Assembly Resolution 58.33, which stated that every member of society should have access to healthcare services without facing financial hardship.
The objective of UHC is therefore to provide every member of society with equitable access to quality health services irrespective of age, gender, race, pre-existing health conditions or socio-economic status.
As a country we consider universal health coverage a major health reform initiative. We have embarked on the journey towards implementation with circulation of the Green Paper, and by engaging in widespread public consultation.
The provision of UHC will outline not only what services are covered but also how they are financed, managed, and delivered. The access to basic health services is not only crucial for maintaining and improving the population’s health but its rippling effects go well beyond the realm of health itself.
Good health is essential to sustained economic and social development and the alleviate poverty. The implementation of this initiative will no doubt bring a ray of hope of better health and protection especially for the poorest amongst us.
Additionally, UHC cuts across all of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. For government to fulfil these commitments, more public funding will be needed for the health sector to increase the availability and quality of services offered.
Investing in health not only saves lives but it is also a crucial indirect investment in the wider economy. This is because ill-health impedes productivity, hinders job prospects and adversely affects human capital development.
As a government we recognise that a firm political commitment to the provision of universal healthcare, can bring about not only greater equity but also much larger overall health, social and economic achievement for our nation.
Happy World Health Day!
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