“Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere #HealthForAll” is the official theme of World Health Day 2019, which is being celebrated internationally on Sunday, April 7, 2019. On this occasion, St. Kitts and Nevis joins the rest of the United Nations’ Member States in continuing to draw attention to the importance of ensuring quality healthcare for every citizen of every Country, if we are to achieve the short, medium and long term developmental goals that have been set by world leaders. To be precise, advocacy for Universal Health Coverage by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and other like-minded, global health agencies is meant to advance the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, SDG #3: Good Health and Well-being. By focusing on the delivery of Universal Health Coverage to our people, our Team Unity Government is making the solemn commitment that every single citizen has access to the quality health care services that they need, when such services are needed, and without financial hardship.”
Such were the sentiments expressed by the Hon Wendy Phipps, Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, in recognition of World Health Day 2019. Minister Phipps indicated that the annual observance of World Health Day on April 7th is meant to coincide with the official anniversary of the Switzerland-based WHO whose Constitution became operational on April 7, 1948.
“As a United Nations (UN) agency dedicated to the pursuit and promotion of global health, the WHO has been at the forefront of global health issues, including but not limited to, the establishment of international health policy; coordination of response to localised and trans-national epidemics and disease outbreaks; leadership in health research; and also the provision of technical support to UN Member States, such as St. Kitts and Nevis,”
Minister Phipps noted that WHO’s selection of the 2019 theme “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere #HealthForAll” comes, in part, from the recognition that an estimated 100 million persons worldwide, per year, are pushed into extreme poverty as a result of out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare. The Minister also stated that at least half of the world’s 7.7 billion people do not receive the healthcare they require. Moreover, she added that Health is a basic human right and, as a result, every individual should have the information and services they need to take care of their own health and that of their families. She said:
“For us in St. Kitts and Nevis, the bedrock of universal health coverage must be high quality, safe and accessible primary health care delivered via the communitybased health services at our Nation’s 17 health centres. Primary health care provided at our health centres should be our first contact with the health system. It is in this primary healthcare setting that individuals, their families, and the communities at large obtain most of their health care. Such care runs the gamut from health promotion and education, to prevention, to treatment, recovery and end-of-life (palliative) services.”
While addressing the importance of delivering quality primary health care to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis Minister Phipps emphasized that such services would result in better health outcomes, reduction in the incidence of illness and diseases, and costeffectiveness – since prevention is always cheaper and better than finding cures. The Minister noted that the savings realised from such primary healthcare services will go a long way in helping to finance the establishment of Universal Health Coverage that is currently being pursued by the Federal Government.
Minister Phipps was careful to point out that “quality healthcare cannot happen unless there is a dedicated cadre of primary healthcare workers who consistently educate patients on how to care for their health and that of their families. This relationship builds trust over time between patients and healthcare workers which, in turn, helps to improve the chances of positive health outcomes on a sustainable basis.
In such relationships, the patients are encouraged to police their own health in partnership with their healthcare providers. Of course, it must also be acknowledged that the strength of the national healthcare system is also heavily vested in the Government’s strong investments in areas such as healthcare infrastructure, skills training and education of healthcare workers, medicines, and treatment protocols including those being done to address the national crisis being caused by Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), which is the leading cause of death and disability for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis1.”
As World Health Day 2019 is observed under the theme “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere #HealthForAll” the Federal Ministry of Health wishes to remind the people of St. Kitts and Nevis that health is precious, that primary healthcare in the Country remains free, and that everyone should take advantage of the quality healthcare services being provided at our health centres. Further, the Ministry emphasized that every individual has a role to play in the attainment of the SDGs, including that of lending one’s voices and participating in the ongoing consultative process geared towards policy development which, in turn, facilitates the achievement and maintenance of Universal Health Coverage. It was noted by the Ministry that the attainment of Universal Health Coverage also demands action by stakeholders outside of the healthcare sector including, but not limited to community groups, the media, political organisations, parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).