WHO - World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia

04/06/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/06/2021 22:59

Address inequities to build a fairer, healthier world: WHO


New Delhi - Seeking collaborative efforts to build a fairer and healthier world, the World Health Organization is calling upon countries in South-East Asia Region to prioritize actions to address inequities compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

'COVID-19 is just the latest disease to expose, exploit and exacerbate inequities that negatively impact health and socioeconomic outcomes between and among vulnerable groups. Understanding and overcoming the many social and economic determinants of health is becoming critical in our efforts to achieve universal health coverage,' said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia, on the occasion of the World Health Day, which is celebrated on 7 April every year.

The Ministers of Health from countries in the Region and WHO will together commit to 'building a fairer and healthier world', the theme of the World Health Day this year, at a high-level virtual event.

Emphasizing on key measures, the Regional Director said, 'We must enhance the collection and use of timely and reliable health data that is disaggregated by gender, age, income, education, migratory status and disability among other factors.'

Once better informed, the governments and the affected communities must work hand in hand to address the root causes of inequities and implement solutions.

As we tackle the social determinants of health, countries should continue to invest more for strengthening primary health care, she said.

And importantly, we must act beyond national borders and strengthen regional and global health security, the Regional Director added, emphasizing that addressing health inequities has been at the heart of WHO South-East Asia's work since 2014 with Universal Health Coverage being a Flagship Priority, one that remained integral to the Region's response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'Working together to achieve a different and better post-COVID-19 world, we have an unprecedented opportunity to tackle health inequities and ensure health for all through universal health coverage,' the Regional Director said.

As a new wave of infection is spreading across the Region, together, we must press ahead and strengthen the basic public health measures that we know work, while also accelerating vaccine rollouts, she said.

The COVID-19 vaccine roll outs are the most recent example of health equity as all countries have prioritized health and frontline workers, older persons and people with co-morbidities, in alignment with SAGE recommendations.

'Nearly 86 million people in the Region have now received their first dose and more than 14 million have received both doses,' Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

For well over a year now, countries have implemented national preparedness and response plans that are equity-oriented, gender-responsive and human rights-focused. All countries have mobilized whole-of-government, whole-of-society responses that advance the core principle of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda: Leave no one behind.

All countries have made extraordinary efforts to protect vulnerable groups - including internal and returning migrants - and to ensure these groups have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, as well as essential health services.

Health equity - the theme of the World health Day is a value that the WHO South-East Asia Region has championed through its eight Flagship Priorities and across all programme areas. 'Our battle against neglected tropical diseases - a Flagship Priority - continues to significantly improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable. The Region continues to make rapid and sustained progress against diseases of poverty and marginalization,' Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

'All people have the right to achieve the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. A fairer and healthier Region and world is possible,' the Regional Director said reiterating WHO's full support to all countries and partners in the Region in their efforts to advance health equity and achieve universal health coverage, the Flagship Priority and Sustainable Development Goal target that underpins all others.