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12 December, 2016 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 11 December, 2016 08:58:47 PM
Universal health Coverage Day

Let us promote human right to health

There is growing global consensus that universal health coverage is a smart investment and an achievable goal everywhere
Dr Samir Kumar Saha
Let us promote human right to health

Every year, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day is commemorated on December 12 across the globe. It is the anniversary of the first unanimous United Nations resolution, calling for countries to provide affordable and quality health care to every person everywhere. In December 2012, the UN passed a landmark resolution endorsing the UHC. Since then, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified UHC as a top priority for sustainable development.

The Day has become the annual rallying point for the growing movement for health for all. Universal health coverage means everyone can access quality health services without financial hardship. It is an inherently political goal rooted in the human right to health. It also makes economic sense. 
Health is a human right, that no one should go bankrupt when they get sick, and that universal health coverage underpins our collective security and prosperity. The World Health Organization’s constitution affirms that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental human right.
More than half of the world’s countries have included the right to health, public health or medical care in their national constitutions. All people aspire to receive quality, affordable health care. UHC aims to achieve better health and development outcomes, help prevent people from falling into poverty due to illness, and give people the opportunity to lead healthier, more productive lives.
In recent years, the global UHC movement has gained momentum, with the World Health Assembly and the United Nations General Assembly calling on countries to “urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality healthcare services.”
There is growing global consensus that universal health coverage is a smart investment and an achievable goal everywhere. Lack of affordable, quality health care traps families and nations in poverty.
According to World Bank, worldwide, 400 million people lack the most basic life-saving health care, and 17% of people in low- and middle-income countries are pushed or further pushed into poverty (US$2/day) because of health spending. Up to one-third of households in Africa and Southeast Asia borrow money or sell assets to pay for health care.
According to WHO, universal health coverage has been included in the new Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. More than 100 low- and middle-income countries, home to almost 3/4 of the world’s population, have taken steps to deliver UHC. The emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS)—representing almost half the world’s population—are all taking steps toward UHC.
Countries implementing universal health coverage are seeing the benefits: healthier communities and stronger economies.
Every $1 that a country invests in health today can produce up to $20 in full-income growth within a generation. When health care is accessible and affordable, families can send their children to school, start a business and save for emergencies. Universal health coverage pays a resilience dividend. 
In times of distress, health minimizes the shock to lives and livelihoods. In times of calm, health promotes community cohesion and economic productivity. Health is a right, not a privilege.
UHC aims to achieve better health and development outcomes in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide the post-2015 agenda. SDG 3 includes a target to “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”
The Ebola crisis was a stark reminder of the urgent need to strengthen health systems. The poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of preventable mother and child deaths, infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease. To effectively fight these threats, we must reach everyone, everywhere, with health care.
In Bangladesh, traditional medicine can play an important role in ensuring health care of all if we can take necessary steps.          
According to WHO, “Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.” 
WHO launched the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014- 2023 for its academic promotion, quality production and mainstream integration into public health care to achieve universal health coverage. 
So, inclusion of traditional medicine in our national health care system can play a complementary role to achieve the objectives of the universal health coverage. Its accesibility at door step of  marginalized people will be very cost-effective and worthy in regards to population coverage and  reducing financial burden  as well.
Since the beginning of human civilization, people used various plants and mineral as medicine in order to protect from diseases.  
In the recent past, there has been a growing interest in Traditional Medicine/Complementary and Alternative Medicine (TCAM) and their relevance to public health both in developed and developing countries. 
Diversity, flexibility, easy accessibility, broad continuing acceptance in developing countries and increasing popularity in developed countries, relative low cost, low levels of technological input, relative low side effects and growing economic importance are some of the positive features of traditional medicine (WHO 2002). 
In this context, there is a critical need to mainstream traditional medicine into our public health care to achieve the objectives of improved access to health care facilities. 
In countries such as Bangladesh, India, China and many other parts of Asia one can observe traditional medical knowledge in various forms such as codified medical systems, folk systems, allied disciplines and new systems of knowledge.
In Bangladesh, Alternative Medicine Care (AMC) means Unani, Ayurvedic and Homeopathic system of medicine. In India AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani and Sidhah) medical systems or Traditional Chinese medicine and Acupuncture in China, have evolved in a historical period spanning over 3─4 millennia with their own unique worldviews, conceptual, theoretical frameworks and elaborate codified literature. 
For example, the oldest medical text of Ayurveda, Caraka Samhita is estimated to be written and redacted through various versions from 1,500 BC─200 AD. Such codified medical traditions have unique understanding of physiology, pathogenesis, pharmacology and pharmaceuticals, which is different from Western biomedicine. These medical systems have been professionalized since last millennia and have been integrated into the national health programmes. 
We want improved health care for all, but there are still problems prevailing in our country, which is hampering the health services. There are many poor people, who are unable to take health services due to financial crisis. On this occasion, it can be said that taking necessary steps on traditional system of medicine can contribute to health care of our people. It is hoped that authorities concerned would look into the matter.    The day is an opportunity to put aside our differences and work together for a movement that brings benefits to people and patients and reduces poverty and promotes inclusive growth.   

The writer is the CEO of Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh and Founder President of Ayurved and Naturopathy Association of Bangladesh (AYUNS)



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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