This year marks the 75th anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO). Founded in 1948, the WHO has worked tirelessly since its inception to unite experts across the globe to tackle health challenges and serve vulnerable communities. On this World Health Day, we reflect upon 75 years of improving public health. The theme for this year’s campaign, Health for All, is particularly fitting as the idea of health for all was foundational to the organization’s development 75 years ago.
The concept of health for all seems simple on the surface – everyone should have access to high-quality and affordable health services when and where they need them. However, this idea is much more complex when put into practice, as evidenced by the fact that at least half of the world’s population doesn’t receive the healthcare they need. Further, those who do have access to healthcare are often faced with socioeconomic factors that significantly impact their quality of care, or are left impoverished due to out-of-pocket medical costs.
Focusing on primary health care is an important piece of the puzzle when considering universal health coverage (UHC). Shown to be the most inclusive and effective way to bring services for health and wellbeing closer to people, primary health care addresses the core health problems in a community and refers to relevant third-party services when needed. While the issues a community faces will vary, primary health care can address issues such as the promotion of proper nutrition, access to clean water, maternal and child care, immunizations, and health education. Community health workers are often employed to provide primary care in local communities where they are attuned to local customs and understand the culture, helping to create a more inclusive healthcare environment.
This World Health Day, the WHO is renewing its commitment to advocating for universal health coverage, which would offer financial protection and access to quality essential services, lift people out of poverty, promote the wellbeing of families and communities, protect against public health crises, and would move us closer to achieving #HealthForAll.