The focus of this year’s World Health Day is achieving Universal Health Coverage through primary health care. Universal health coverage is WHO’s number one goal. Key to achieving it is ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community.
Progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world, but I have observed that this is not the case in Nigeria. Millions of Nigerians still do not have access at all to health care. Millions more are forced to choose between healthcare and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home.
According to the World Health Organization, primary health care is a critical foundation for universal health coverage. It can address the vast majority of people’s health needs throughout their lives. Universal health coverage (UHC) is about ensuring all people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.
- No one should have to choose between good health and other life necessities.
- UHC is key to people and nations’ health and well-being.
- Everyone can play a part in the path to UHC, by taking part in a UHC conversation.
Too many Nigerians are currently missing out on health coverage;
“Universal” in UHC means “for all”, without discrimination, leaving no one behind. Everyone everywhere has a right to benefit from health services they need without falling into poverty when using them. We must begin to make UHC a priority agenda in Nigeria.
I am calling on the Nigerian Government to take UHC very seriously and provide the very basic healthcare needs of the populace. UHC is everyone’s business, this includes the leaders, health care workers, patient’s etc, and we should all work together and make our voices to be heard.
Here are some facts and figures about the state of UHC today (Source: WHO)
Incurring catastrophic expenses for health care is a global problem. In richer countries in Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia, which have achieved high levels of access to health services, increasing numbers of people are spending at least 10 percent of their household budgets on out-of-pocket health expenses.
UHC means that all people and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. UHC enables everyone to access the services that address the most important causes of disease and death and ensures that the quality of those services is good enough to improve the health of the people who receive them.
UHC is not just about health care and financing the health system of a country. It encompasses all components of the health system: systems and healthcare providers that deliver health services to people, health facilities and communications networks, health technologies, information systems, quality assurance mechanisms and governance and legislation.
Can community health care workers address the Primary healthcare Crises in Nigeria?
‘Community health –care workers know the traditions, cultures and practices of their communities, making them indispensable especially during an outbreak of emergencies’ (WHO).
With the reduction in the number of doctors in Nigeria today, it is high time the health ministry makes use of ad hoc staff to fill in the gap in suitable aspects of primary care provision.
In many developed countries of the world who can boast of a good number of primary health care centers per geographical area/population, they still make use of physician associates, health visitors, advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacist independent prescribers, nurse advisors, and health care assistants etc to fill in the gap.
In Nigeria we do not have enough medical practitioners per population or geographical area. This is the time to train and retrain more community health care workers to help in managing long term conditions, reduction in childhood illnesses due to lack of immunization.
Trained birth attendants will also help reduce maternal mortality and community nursing care will reduce infant mortality.
Studies have been conducted in some developing countries and there is enormous evidence to portray the importance of integrating lay health workers in primary health care force.
I believe this is a step in the right direction if we must provide universal health coverage in Nigeria.
The systematic integration of community health workers at a large scale could be an effective and a rapidly implementable approach to the current primary care workload crisis we have in Nigeria.
I feel there is a sense of urgency for this; and I’m calling on all stakeholders to work together towards achieving UHC in Nigeria.
Reference: [World Health Day, WHO]