‘Health is a right, not a privilege’ says WHO chief on World Health Day

7 April 2019

The Director-General of the  World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has marked World Health Day, which falls on Sunday, with a reiteration of the UN’s stance on health: that it is a fundamental human right, not a privilege.

Speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, during an event to launch the Day, the WHO chief said that all people deserve access to health services, “when and where they need them, without financial hardship.”

However, half the world’s population, he said, still lacks access to essential health services, with around 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. This is why the WHO is focusing on its number one goal this year: universal health care.

About 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization

The UN agency defines universal health care as meaning that all individuals and communities are able to access the health services they need – from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care – without suffering financial hardship.

When people are not protected from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets, they may have to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow, destroying their futures and often those of their children.

Achieving universal health coverage is one of the targets the nations of the world set when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015: good health provides the basis for long-term economic development, allowing children to learn and adults to earn, and helping people escape from poverty.

The WHO is calling on all countries to invest in primary health care, which Mr. Ghebreyesus described as the “bedrock of universal health coverage,” covering the majority of health needs throughout a person’s life, and keeping people out of hospitals and in the community.

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Women outliving men ‘everywhere’, new UN health agency statistics report shows

Average life-expectancy globally has increased by five-and-a-half years since the turn of the century, and women outlive men “everywhere”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Lack of basic water facilities risks millions of lives globally: UN health agency

More than two billion people face grave health risks because basic water facilities are not available in one in four medical centres globally, the UN has said, in an appeal to countries to do more to prevent the transmission of treatable infections that can turn deadly if not washed or flushed, away.