“Universal Health Coverage: Health for All’ – Let’s Make This Dream Comes True to Everyone and Everywhere – World Health Day Message

Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on 7th April to mark the anniversary of the founding of World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. The theme for World Health Day 2019 is "Universal Health Coverage: Health for All", a topic of high relevance to each and every country across the globe. “Let’s all work together to make this dream comes true to Everyone and Everywhere” - says Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam, Dean of Research Studies & Senior Scientist, Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF), Chennai, India.
Universal health coverage (UHC)1 is a vision where all people and communities have access to quality health services where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full spectrum of services needed throughout life—from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care—and is best based on a strong primary health care system.

Global health faces a broad spectrum of old and new challenges. Besides epidemiological problems, political conflicts, economic crisis and austerity policies are jeopardizing progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), affecting the most vulnerable populations. Improvements in health financing and revamping of policies and overall health system by respective governments with public-private partnerships can help in achieving UHC and build a healthier country. However, the ambitious UHC cannot be made overnight to everyone and everywhere and a key principle for achieving it should be possible by “progressive universalization”, i.e., starting with whatever is available and gradually adding health services and improving financial protection for larger populations as the capacity of health system improves, sustains and grows.

Key Messages1 of the World Health Day

  • Health is a human right; it’s time for health for all.
  • Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.
  • Health is a human right; everyone should have the information and services they need to take care of their own health and the health of their families.
  • Quality, accessible primary health care is the foundation for universal health coverage.
  • Primary health care is a cost-effective and equitable way of delivering health services and helping countries make progress towards universal health coverage.
  • To make health for all a reality, we need: individuals and communities who have access to high quality health services so that they take care of their own health and the health of their families; skilled health workers providing quality, people-centered care; and policy-makers committed to investing in primary health care.

Universal Health Coverage – Indian context: Universal Health Coverage (UHC) remains an elusive aim, and as per the Indian health system, it continues to be characterized by substantial shortcomings relating to workforce, infrastructure, and the quality and availability of overall health services. However, the good news is that successive Indian national governments have stated a commitment to achieving UHC. The Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) initiative approved by the Govt. of India in March 2018 is a historic step towards achieving UHC in India and the scheme aims to publicly fund the healthcare of up to 500 million people. While there are obvious resource constraints and impediments in implementing AB-PMJAY2, the success of the scheme will depend on overcoming a number of existing and interrelated structural deficiencies of the Indian Health system such as issues of public and private sector governance, stewardship, infrastructure, quality control, and health system organization.

Let’s have a HealthSpan or Healthy Ageing Campaign! says Muthuswamy Balasubramanyam. The good news is that we can have a healthy aging. Life expectancy makes great headlines. Life span is how long we live. Health span is how long we live with the best possible health. Worldwide life expectancy is considerably increasing, thanks to the medical advancements. What about Healthspan? Right now, the average lifespan in Western countries is about 80, but there are too many people who are only healthy until about age 40 or 50. This might be obviously to the left side if you consider the developing countries like India. World today is facing devastating health issues due to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease along with the double burden of ever-troubling communicable diseases. Appropriate implementation of the Universal Health Coverage- for everyone & everywhere, when it becomes true will guarantee our long lifespan with healthspan.

Balasubramanyam photo Dr.M.Balasubramanyam, PhD., MNASc., FAPASc is Dean of Research Studies & Senior Scientist at the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) in Chennai, India. Dr. Balasubramanyam's specialization is in Disease Biology; Molecular pathogenesis of diabetes and its vascular complications including diabetic retinopathy; Vascular Biology and signaling studies on VSMC; Clinical significance and subclinical relevance of cellular and molecular alterations in metabolic diseases; Mechanisms of accelerated senescence (ageing) and telomere biology; Insulin signaling & Proteomics; Epigenetics; RNAi and miRNA, gut microbiome aspects of diabetes, Unraveling mechanisms of hyperglycemic memory, Calcium & Redox signaling, Proinflammation, Oxidative stress, ER stress, AGE pathway and biomarker(s) identification; Role of Endocrine Disruptors in diabetes; Bioprospecting herbal molecules; Non-invasive point-of-care (POC) clinical measures and medical devices.

References (click to show/hide)

  1. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/world-health-day-2019
  2. Angell BJ et al. The Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana and the path to universal health coverage in India: Overcoming the challenges of stewardship and governance. PLoS Med. 2019 Mar 7;16(3):e1002759. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002759. eCollection 2019 Mar.

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