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A letter for World Health Day 2018

Today, the 7th of April 2018, the World Health Organization marks its 70th year since inception. For this year’s anniversary, the WHO is renewing the call for Universal Health Coverage (UHC). UHC is a concept that we fundamentally support at hera and we are proud to stand with all those working towards this goal. For more than two decades we have been working to strengthen health systems for the right to health and development for all. Immersed in this work, it is clear to us that we are taking steps in the right direction but that the distance to cover is still far.

As a thought experiment and a way of helping to outline the distances involved, a hera partner created a fictitious letter from a fictitious ministry of health to a fictitious patient on world health day, and we thought we should share it with you. It captures many of the struggles we must face to achieve our goals of Universal Health Coverage.

Dear Mr Jacobs

We acknowledge, that under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 you have the right to medical care that is adequate for your health and well-being. By signing and ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, we have made commitments under Article 12 to assure that you receive all medical service in the event of sickness. And by endorsing the World Health Assembly resolution 58.33 of 2005 on sustainable health financing, universal coverage and social health insurance as well as subsequent resolutions on universal health coverage (UHC) of the World Health Assembly and UN General Assembly, we are committed to delivering UHC, succinctly defined by the WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his speech to the WHO Board in 2018: “All human beings should receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship”.

We assure you, M. Jacobs, that if you were a child below five years of age suffering from malaria, we would provide you with immediate treatment with an effective antimalarial medicine free of charge. If you were infected with HIV, we would assure that you receive anti-retroviral treatment and social support (at least first line anti-retroviral medicines, we are having a bit of a problem with second-line treatment at the moment). If your persistent cough and shortness of breath were due to a tuberculosis infection, we would provide the necessary treatment to cure the infection without any financial hardship to you. Unfortunately, you are a 65-year-old man with chronic bronchitis and emphysema which may be related to the years you spent working in coal mines, exacerbated by your habit of smoking tobacco against which we have been warning you for decades, warnings which you chose to ignore.

Please understand, Mr Jacobs, that we have to set priorities, and you are not one of them. We hope that you find a way to deal with your short breath.

Yours sincerely,

The Minister of Health

P.S. Concerning your daughter’s application for free contraception, we would like to remind her that having sex before marriage is a lifestyle decision, and we cannot take financial responsibility for your daughter’s lifestyle. We are, of course, committed to providing her with free maternity care should she become pregnant.

Wishing you all the best for World Health Day.

For more info on some of our recent UHC related projects check out the post about our collaboration with WHO AFRO, providing an assessment of the status of UHC determinants in the region. The results of which have been used to further develop a WHO AFRO monitoring framework for UHC.

Also see our post on conducting the IHP+ 2016 monitoring round, a precursor to the UHC2030 platform, promoting collaborative working at global and country levels on health systems strengthening (HSS).

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