United Nations states around the world have just reaffirmed their commitment to the continuous pursuit of Universal Health Coverage for all by agreeing to the Declaration of Astana last October twenty six in Astana, Kazakhstan. The new declaration is built on the foundation of the previous 1978 Declaration of Alma Ata, which marked the first time that world leaders collectively agreed to prioritize and improve primary health care systems in their respective countries. The UN had previously determined that a primary health care approach is the most effective way to provide solutions to systemic health care challenges that we currently face.
According to the World Health Organization, the new Declaration of Astana is a renewal political commitments to primary health care from Governments, non-government organizations, professional organizations, academia and global health and development organizations. More specifically, the UN states have agreed to tackle the declaration’s main components which are to make bold political choices for health across all sectors, to build sustainable primary health care, to empower individuals and communities, and to align stakeholder support to national policies, strategies and plans. At its core, the Declaration of Astana aims to be the catalyst and the framework for UN nations to create universal health care systems that allow for people to effectively access quality health services all while not putting people into financial difficulty.
Historically, world-wide health efforts have been overly targeted towards actions on individual diseases instead of more complete and inclusive health care systems, as reported by UNICEF. “Although the world is a healthier place for children today than ever before, close to 6 million children die every year before their fifth birthday mostly from preventable causes, and more than 150 million are stunted,” said UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore. She also added that “We as a global community can change that, by bringing quality health services close to those who need them. That’s what primary health care is about.” Around one-half of the world population still doesn’t have access to fundamental health care services which include care for non-communicable and communicable diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health. The adoption of the Declaration of Astana coupled with the long-term commitment of UN states and health organizations could bridge the gap to better healthcare and ultimately better health for all.
What does this mean for healthcare providers on the ground like nurses and physicians? In the short-run, it’s effects could be quite minimal. However, more opportunities may arise for practitioners to play active roles in long-term projects whether it be as human resource or as leaders. The responsibilities of healthcare providers are evolving, and future physicians will also most likely need to increasingly collaborate together with other health professionals and also with other sectors of society in designing and implementing policies related to primary health systems and overall universal care in the context of continuously improving quality and ease of access.
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