Right To Health Of Millions Increasingly Coming Under Threat Globally – WHO

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The World Health Organisation has said warned that diseases and disasters loom large as causes of death and disability, mentioning that around the world, the right to health of millions is increasingly coming under threat.

The organisation said this in its message on Sunday to commemorate 2024 World Health Day (WHD).

The WHD is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on April 7 to provide an opportunity to focus world attention on a health problem or issue that deserves special attention.

The theme for 2024 WHD is ‘My health, my right’. It was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

“Around the world, the right to health of millions is increasingly coming under threat.

“Diseases and disasters loom large as causes of death and disability. Conflicts are devastating lives, causing death, pain, hunger, and psychological distress.

“The burning of fossil fuels is simultaneously driving the climate crisis and taking away our right to breathe clean air, with indoor and outdoor air pollution claiming a life every five seconds,” the global health body noted.

It said its council on the Economics of Health for All has found that at least 140 countries recognise health as a human right in their constitutions. “Yet countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure their populations are entitled to access health services.

“This underpins the fact that at least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.

“To address these types of challenges, the theme for World Health Day 2024 is ‘My health, my right’,” it said.

“You have the right to safe and quality care, without any discrimination, privacy and confidentiality of your health information, information about your treatment and to informed consent bodily autonomy and integrity.

“Everyone should have access to the health services they need when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship. So, if you cannot access healthcare, that’s not right,” it added.

The organisation also tasked the government to tax tobacco, sugar, and alcohol; eliminate trans fats; reduce amount of antimicrobials in the agri-food system by 30-50 per cent by 2030; stop fossil fuel subsidies and subsidise or exempt tax of clean energy and fuels such as solar-, hydro- and wind-based electricity; and prohibit all forms of discrimination.

It further urged the government to build up cycling infrastructure, support pedestrianisation; ensure decent work, worker rights and protections, and create fair, equal and gender-responsive working conditions for health and care workers; ensure access to social protection to reduce households’ vulnerability to poverty and counteract the negative impacts of unexpected life events on income, wealth or health.

“Invest in health like your bottom line depends on it – an additional $200–328 billion a year is needed globally to scale up primary health care in low- and middle-income countries (i.e. 3.3 per cent of national forecast GDP).

“Deliver on the right to health – make health services available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality for everyone, everywhere.Be strategic and build from the basics, reorient health systems around primary health care. Champion transparency and accountability, tackle corruption by strengthening governance and working across sectors.

“Involve the general public in health decision-making. ‘Social participation’ happens when individuals and communities are meaningfully involved in decision-making around health, e.g., town-hall meetings and citizen assemblies, focus groups and consultations, health councils, representation on steering groups, and review boards.

“Know the health needs of populations and act on them, collect, analyse, use and monitor data, disaggregate by age, sex, economic status, education level, place of residence, race and ethnicity, and other characteristics and act to correct health inequities. Safeguard the right to health in war and conflict, protect health infrastructure and health workers, and ensure uninterrupted access to health services, in adherence to international humanitarian and human rights law,” WHO advised.

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