Access to Health Services Still a Challenge: WHO

The state of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) globally is still not satisfactory with at least half of the world’s people currently unable to obtain essential health services, Principal  Director Preventive Services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gibson Mhlanga has said.

Speaking at the World Health Day commemorations and launch of the National Healthy Aging Strategic Document, Mhlanga said a lot of people are being pushed into poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.

“Almost 100 million people are being pushed into extreme poverty, forced to survive on just $1.90 or less a day because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets,

“Over 800 million people (Almost 12% of the world’s population) spend at least 10% of their household budgets on health expenses for themselves, a sick child or other family member. Incurring catastrophic expenses for health care is a global problem,” said Mhlanga.

In richer European countries, Latin America and parts of Asia which have achieved high levels of access to health services, an increasing numbers of people are still spending at least 10% of their household budgets on out of pocket expenses.

The current Zimbabwe National Health Strategy aims for a universal health system that provides quality health services for all particularly through public sector health services and primary health care.

Universal Health Coverage in the country embraces the need to provide all citizens with access to needed health services including prevention, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation of sufficient quality to be effective at the same time ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.

However, Mhlanga revealed that though there has been significant progress towards UHC as a country, there are still challenges which need to be addressed moving forward.

“There are still challenges we need to address moving forward, these are under funding of the public sector, segmentation of health financing, social health insurance taking too long to start, poor quality of care at all levels, weak programme integration resulting in missed opportunities, lack of continuum of care along the life cycle (new borns, adolescents) and cross service delivery levels

“In addition inequitable geographical distribution of health facilities especially in new settlement areas, limited fiscal space resulting in inadequate allocation of Government resources for service delivery and shortage of qualified staff with the required attitude and skills, the challenges are currently being addressed over the strategy NHS 2016-2020,” explained Mhlanga.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti urged countries to improve health governance and leaders to effectively commit to achieving Universal Health Coverage.

“Countries must therefore strive to improve health governance and information systems to ensure better regulation, planning and accountability to their communities and partners,

“Effective leadership and high level political commitment are critical to achieving UHC, adequate and sustained investment in health is necessary for ensuring equitable access to health services,

“Several countries in the region including Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Uganda have demonstrated that removing user fees systematically increases utilization rates of health services,” said Moeti.