May 30, 2023
Giving Common Well being Protection a Platform

World Well being Day was based on the First Well being Meeting in 1948. Since taking impact in 1950, this present day has raised consciousness on the well being priorities of individuals everywhere in the world. It additionally marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Well being Group (WHO).

Information Medical commemorates WHO’s seventy-fifth birthday and World Well being Day this 12 months by reflecting on the previous, current, and potential of public well being, with a specific give attention to Common Well being Protection (UHC) and its significance to public well being. We spoke to Gérard Schmets and Denis Porignon, Deputy Director of the WHO Major Well being Care Particular Programme and Coverage Adviser on the World Well being Group, respectively. 

Please introduce your self and inform us about your position on the Common Well being Protection (UHC) Partnership?

Gérard Schmets: I’m Gerard Schmets, the Deputy Director of the WHO Particular Programme for Major Well being Care. My position is to supervise the WHO company strategy for the implementation, monitoring, and reporting on major well being care (PHC) for common well being protection (UHC). This additionally contains associated actions in international locations, areas, and at headquarters and their linkages with WHO normative work and capability constructing programmes.

A serious contributor to this work is the UHC Partnership, the place I’m in control of coordinating the WHO UHC Joint Working Staff, which is a platform that brings experience and coherence to all ranges of WHO (from international locations, to areas and world places of work) and their work on PHC and UHC.

Denis Porignon: I’m Denis Porignon, head of the Nation Impression Unit within the WHO Particular Programme for Major Well being Care, main the UHC Partnership since its inception in 2011.

I’ve been working with WHO since 1997, first as the principle coverage adviser to the Minister of Well being of Rwanda till 2001, and since 2007 at WHO headquarters as senior coverage advisor for the Division of Well being Methods Improvement.

On this body, I help strategic well being coverage dialogue in international locations. This helps orient them on the trail in the direction of UHC.

The UHC Partnership is one in all WHO’s largest platforms for worldwide cooperation on common well being protection and first well being care. When was the UHC Partnership based, and why?

Denis Porignon: The UHC Partnership was created in 2011 as a joint enterprise by the European Union and WHO to reinforce well being governance by coverage dialogue and strategic and technical help. This programme goals to construct resilient and built-in well being techniques to speed up progress in the direction of UHC and well being safety by a PHC strategy.

It’s based on the WHA resolutions on strengthening nationwide coverage dialogue to construct extra strong well being insurance policies, methods, and plans (A64-R8, 2011). This decision represents a big change within the strategy to strengthening well being techniques, recognizing the significance of well being insurance policies to make sure a complete strategy to well being, going past service supply to additionally embrace the varied elements of well being safety and the social determinants of well being.

To make sure consistency and effectivity, the UHC Partnership developed a particular tailor-made and bottom-up strategy primarily based on the prioritries recognized by international locations in addition to their capacities. This permits versatile and agile programming that may adapt rapidly to evolving contexts corresponding to in well being emergencies just like the COVID-19 pandemic, illness outbreaks, natrural disasters and warfare or battle.

A decade on, the UHC Partnership has deployed a big community of greater than 130 well being coverage advisers to help the availability of technical help for PHC and UHC in 120 international locations. They’ve been progressively integrated into the core workforce of WHO to create one of many largest and simplest technical and operational platforms and networks for worldwide cooperation on PHC and UHC. As well as, the UHC Partnership is supporting the event of WHO technical merchandise on norms, requirements, information, and analysis for well being.  

What’s UHC, and why is it vital?

Gérard Schmets: Common Well being Protection signifies that all individuals have entry to the total vary of high quality well being providers they want, alongside the total continuum of well being providers, when and the place they want them, with out monetary hardship.

In 2015, when the United Nations Basic Meeting adopted UHC as one of many new 2030 Sustainable Improvement Targets (SDGs), international locations reaffirmed that well being is a precondition for and an end result of the social, financial, and environmental dimensions of sustainable growth.

Image Credit: 1981 Rustic Studio kan/

Picture Credit score: 1981 Rustic Studio kan/

UHC is a basic component in decreasing inequalities between individuals as a result of it will increase individuals’s entry to well being providers and protects them in opposition to catastrophic well being expenditures. To maneuver in the direction of UHC, WHO made a precedence to reorient well being techniques by an strategy we name major well being care or PHC. It is a whole-of-society strategy to well being that focuses on three elements: important major care and important public well being features; multisectoral coverage and motion; and empowerment of individuals and communities. It serves as a essential first line of protection throughout outbreaks in stopping illnesses and bettering the well being of all communities. PHC is a approach to promote the well being and wellbeing of everybody, all over the place, and to forestall illnesses by addressing their root causes and creating circumstances for well being to thrive. 

What position does coverage play within the path towards UHC?

Gérard Schmets: Multisectoral public well being insurance policies play a key position in advancing progress in the direction of UHC. Based mostly on proof, they represent a rational consensus on the wants of the inhabitants, the objectives that international locations wish to obtain, and the options required to achieve these aims. They translate worldwide suggestions produced by teachers and public well being professionals into nationwide laws to guard public well being, battle illnesses and work on social determinants of well being.

In addition they present a construction to align all the mandatory assets—infrastructure, monetary and human assets, as an example—to achieve nationwide public well being objectives, working hand in hand with macroeconomic and different sectoral insurance policies.

As well as, public well being insurance policies set up a standard framework of motion for companions who want to help governments of their work to enhance well being for all. They promote the coordination and the alignment of nationwide and worldwide well being companions on the actions carried out by ministers of well being.

Are there any significantly inspiring case research exhibiting the journey towards UHC?

Denis Porignon: From 2000 to 2019, the UHC service protection globally has elevated from 45 to 67. As indicated within the 2019 UHC world monitoring report, all international locations benefiting from devoted strategic and technical help from the UHC Partnership have seen a rise of their UHC service protection index throughout their involvement within the UHC Partnership previous to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This progress is the results of the worldwide motion for UHC and could be attributed to the work of nationwide authorities with the help of worldwide and nationwide well being companions, together with the contribution of UHC Partnership on coverage and strategic facets associated to PHC and UHC. The 2021 UHC world monitoring report revealed that previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancements in service protection have been pushed by huge investments to deal with communicable illnesses. Nonetheless, monetary safety in opposition to catastrophic expenditure for well being is just not progressing so nicely, and far work stays to be performed.

Many international locations took inspiring actions to maneuver in the direction of UHC. In Africa, Capo Verde made nice enhancements to realize the best to well being of its individuals. As a lower-middle-income nation, it demonstrated that its well being standing is commensurate to high-income international locations. General life expectancy, morbidity, and mortality charges are higher than the regional common, and the nation is on observe to realize the SDGs.

Within the Pacific, Timor Leste has made a exceptional journey to construct democratic well being establishments and progress in the direction of UHC. As an illustration, the nation has been measles-free since 2017 and is on observe to remove malaria, reducing the incidence fee by 99% between 2006 and 2017. Adopting related rules to the UHC Partnership, the federal government established authorized frameworks to advertise inclusive decision-making processes and enhance the illustration of communities.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic impression UHC? Are international locations/communities now recovering from these impacts?

Gérard Schmets: As latest years have proven, the rising frequency and severity of climate-related hazards, mixed with the added problem of vector-borne illnesses (Ebola, Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya), impose a heavy toll on societies and economies, and place a heavy burden on well being techniques. The COVID-19 pandemic was not an exception, resulting in setbacks in well being features and efforts to realize UHC.

Image Credit: Darren Baker/

Picture Credit score: Darren Baker/

This pandemic has confirmed that each nation is uncovered to public well being emergencies by direct impression on mortality and morbidity, disruption to well being techniques features and important providers, in addition to financial and social penalties on the nationwide and world ranges. Not less than 94% of nations reported disruptions to important providers throughout the pandemic.

The disruption of well being providers was particularly problematic for these residing with persistent illnesses who wanted common care. Different examples embrace routine immunization, the place 25 million kids beneath five-years-old missed out on deliberate vaccinations.

The COVID-19 pandemic additionally demonstrated that efforts to strengthen well being techniques are largely fragmented and don’t guarantee satisfactory dedication to or resourcing important public well being features to allow resilience, safeguard well being, and insulate important well being service supply.

General, progress remains to be being made, with common service protection bettering in most international locations. Nonetheless, inequalities proceed to be a basic problem for UHC. Even the place there’s nationwide progress on well being service protection, the aggregated information masks the inequalities inside international locations. WHO is asking on nationwide authorities, in addition to technical and monetary companions, to reorient well being techniques in the direction of a PHC strategy to get again on observe and obtain UHC and well being safety for all.

This 12 months’s World Well being Day theme is ‘Well being For All.’ What does this message imply to you and for world well being?

Denis Porignon: Well being for all signifies that everybody, wherever on our planet and with none distinction, ought to have the very best private state of well being and well-being, which can’t be lowered to the absence of illnesses or the flexibility to entry well being providers. This aim pursues the best of social justice, which is on the basis of WHO. This implies everybody can develop, stay, work, and age in environments that may guarantee longer, more healthy, and happier lives in a peaceable, affluent, and sustainable world.

UHC is first a political and social alternative; attaining well being for all requires robust political management to remodel individuals’s lives, shifting from economics pushed by revenue to economics pushed by equity and wellbeing. The size and high quality of life, measured by the quality-adjusted life years and the disability-adjusted life years, ought to then turn into the brand new compass, going past the gross nationwide product that ought to solely be a way to make sure respect for human rights for everybody, all over the place.

This World Well being Day is especially particular because it celebrates the WHO’s 75th birthday. With such an vital milestone, why is it vital to replicate on previous public well being successes?

Gérard Schmets: For a very long time, the elimination and management of illnesses have been representing what must be public well being successes. If the eradication of smallpox in 1980 was an vital achievement for humanity, we perceive over the last many years that vertical approaches for public well being won’t give the anticipated outcomes.

After all, prophylaxis, by the prevention and management of illnesses, remains to be very a lot mandatory. The invention of penicillin, as an example, saved many lives over the last century, and we now have the identical hope for the latest malaria vaccine. All these actions have to be pursued and intensified by an built-in strategy, particularly as a result of 30% of the world’s inhabitants can nonetheless not entry the important well being providers they want, and nearly 2 billion individuals are dealing with catastrophic or impoverishing well being expenditures.

Image Credit: Elenarts/

Picture Credit score: Elenarts/

However reaching UHC received’t be ample to realize well being for all. The COVID-19 expertise has been a set off for politicians and the general public, basically, to appreciate additional and perceive the linkages between well being, socioeconomic growth, and whole-of-society constraints. The social gradient in well being demonstrates, as an example, that the poorest of the poor in each nation have the worst well being associated to their socioeconomic place and that that is decided by numerous components corresponding to earnings, schooling, occupation, gender, and race.

Well being inequities have an effect on everybody and are generated by the social group of energy, the place no vaccine nor medication could be found to enhance the scenario. Because of this the extension of the UHC Partnership to 115 international locations, which is concentrated on social participation and group empowerment by coverage dialogue, could be thought-about one other vital success for WHO’s 75th birthday.

What’s subsequent for the UHC Partnership?

Denis Porignon: Because of the belief that we constructed with a big group of donors (Belgium, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Eire, Japan, Luxembourg, and the UK), the UHC Partnership is finalizing its section IV by the top of 2024, and will proceed till a minimum of 2026. It would hold the identical aims, strategy, and accountability mechanisms as they reveal their efficiencies to help international locations within the institutionalization of well being coverage and methods for PHC and UHC.

However, the scope of actions will probably be expanded to new international locations and new positions of well being coverage advisors. As well as, after integrating a particular give attention to noncommunicable illnesses (NCDs) and well being safety, the UHC Partnership may have extra curiosity in two new areas of labor associated to local weather change and digitalization.

Additionally, following the final World Well being Meeting, WHO dedicated to intensifying its effort to help the reorientation of well being techniques in the direction of PHC and to extend its finances for intensive PHC help to Member States. Many international locations endure from extreme foundational gaps of their well being system.

The reinforcement of major care providers and important public well being features is a precedence to make sure a progress in the direction of UHC and well being safety for all. As well as, the community of well being coverage advisers will contribute to the event of nation funding plans for primary infrastructure for well being (water, electrical energy, sanitation, and provide chain). As they’ve been doing for the final ten years, well being coverage advisers will intention to make use of these processes to create synergies and harmonization between stakeholders and funding streams.

Lastly, in 2020, WHO printed the Operational Framework for PHC to make clear conceptual definitions and help international locations in scaling up PHC implementation. The operational framework proposes operational and strategic levers to translate PHC commitments into actions.

Moreover, a PHC measurement and analysis framework was printed in 2022 to help Member States in assessing, monitoring, and monitoring PHC efficiency to speed up progress in the direction of UHC and the health-related SDGs. The UHC Partnership will apply this framework to gather information and analyze progress on PHC for UHC. We hope it would give a greater understanding of how well being techniques strengthening initiatives are essential to making sure well being for all.

The place can readers discover extra data?

About Gerard Schmets

Gerard Schmets is the Deputy Director of the WHO Particular Programme for Major Well being Care (PHC). Earlier than becoming a member of the Particular Programme for PHC, he was coordinator of the WHO Common Well being Protection (UHC) Joint Working Staff and coordinator of the Well being Methods Governance unit at WHO Headquarters. Previous to becoming a member of WHO Headquarters, he was Director a.i. of the Division of Well being Methods Nation Help within the WHO Regional Workplace for Europe from 2004 to 2008.

Earlier than becoming a member of WHO, Gerard labored intensively on PHC, well being techniques and well being emergencies with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières / Medical doctors With out Borders), as co-CEO of AEDES, a public well being consulting agency, and of Gemelli, a hospital administration consulting agency primarily based in Brussels. His work included long-term, medium-term and short-term missions in additional than 80 fragile and low- and middle-income international locations in Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Jap Europe, and Asia.

Earlier than participating in public well being overseas, Gerard was assistant professor in public finance within the College of Louvain, analyzing the financing of the Belgian well being sector and supporting programs on public finance and econometrics. He additionally labored as econometrician for the European Fee.

About Denis Porignon

Denis Porignon is the pinnacle of the Nation Impression Unit within the WHO Particular Programme for PHC. He has been main the UHC Partnership since its inception in 2011. Denis has been working with WHO since 1997, when he was the principle coverage adviser to the Minister of Well being of Rwanda till 2001. In 2007, he joined WHO Headquarters as senior coverage advisor for the Division of Well being Methods Improvement.

Since 1987, and previous to becoming a member of WHO, Denis was practising as a medical physician, supporting public well being initiatives in West and Central Africa for the College of Brussels and the College of Liege (Belgium). He labored for a number of years as coordinator for Leprosy and Tuberculosis management for the Damien Basis within the jap a part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and carried out many missions to greater than 15 international locations for numerous multilateral, bilateral, and non-governmental actors in worldwide well being.