No Place for Caste, Color, Creed in Healthcare Provision

No Place for Caste, Color,  Creed in Healthcare Provision No Place for Caste, Color,  Creed in Healthcare Provision

Universal health is the foundation for peace and security, and ensuring that depends on meaningful cooperation among governments and organizations, said Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi in his address to the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA).

The WHA is the main decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the meeting opened in Geneva on Monday, where Iran chairs the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) bloc.

"NAM emphasizes that every single individual is entitled access to the highest standards of healthcare regardless of their ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, and social or economic status," he said.

"It is of the firm belief that ensuring such access demands collaboration among all governments and entities across the globe," he was quoted by IRNA as saying while elucidating the 39 articles of this year's statement by the health ministers of the 120-nation bloc.

Taking stock of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, he said, "Although they seem rather ambitious, we need to make modifications in four areas of national government, humanitarian aid, trade ties, and foreign investments to strike a win-win deal."

Nearly 30% of the population in the world lacks any sort of financial coverage for health expenses and sustainable sources of revenue are needed to reimburse them, such as increasing tax revenues, he said, Khabaronline reported.

He also presented a report on Iran's National Document on NCDs and the Health Reform Plan that has provided insurance coverage to 10 million people since its launch in 2014.

  Major Reforms

Establishing the social department at the ministry headed by his deputy was a major reform in the healthcare system. "That is because the sustainable development office at the department is focused on social parameters of health in reaching the SDGs through public participation," Hashemi noted.

The WHA was also briefed on the fourth phase of the health reforms that promote healthcare through education and training competent workforce including family physicians, to facilitate the process of realizing the SDGs.

He reaffirmed NAM's emphasis on the WHO's central role in managing global health issues. A global response to pandemics such as Ebola and Zika under the WHO auspices is an example of how coordinated and sustainable measures can overcome global health challenges.

If healthcare systems were stronger and better prepared, many public endemics could be prevented or controlled, said Hashemi.

NAM encourages a harmonized and vigilant response at national, regional, and international levels to address the existing challenges in line with the SDGs, he said, stressing the necessity to provide access to affordable medicine, particularly in developing countries where Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are peaking.

The minister reiterated the concern over antimicrobial resistance and its challenges to global achievements in public healthcare particularly among the NAM member states.

The bloc would also like to express its reservations regarding "the unilateral coercive measures" in the context of international relations, trade, investments, and cooperation in public health which have negative implications, he said.

Underlining the pivotal role of the WHO in ensuring equal access to affordable, high-quality, safe, and effective medications, Hashemi highlighted NAM's support for transfer of knowledge, and R&D in prevention, treatment, vaccines, and pathology services.

Deteriorating health conditions in Palestine as a result of the decades of destructive policies and practices of the western-backed Israeli occupying power and the criminality of the Islamic State terrorist outfit in Syria and Iraq  is another major concern for the movement, the meeting was told.

"NAM would also like to stress that WHO's engagement with non-state actors must move towards better global health and advancement and promotion of public health while safeguarding its integrity, authority, and independence," Hashemi noted, taking stock of the Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA).

The recent challenges posed by the increasing numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers as well as the displaced people across continents demand special attention to secure their access to decent healthcare and sanitary services.

  Ambitious New Era

WHO Director Margaret Chan touched upon several issues including global decline in child mortality, 44% drop in maternal mortality, 85% drop in tuberculosis cases, 60% decline in malaria mortality, and increased antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV.

"We have entered an ambitious new era for health development. We have a solid foundation of success to build on. Together with its multiple partners, WHO is poised to save many more millions of lives. I ask you to remember this purpose as we go through an agenda that can mean so much for the future," she said.

Hashemi also met with his counterparts from Finland, Germany and Switzerland, and signed a memorandum of understanding with Austria.

This year's assembly that ends on May 28 is the biggest to date, bringing together 3,500 delegates. Around 21 resolutions are expected to be discussed by delegations from the 194 WHO member states.