The World Health Organization launched a year-long campaign yesterday to build a fairer, healthier world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each year for World Health Day, WHO announces a theme and this April 7th, in light of the pandemic’s toll, its focus is on the health inequities that have led to so many deaths around the world.
The cost of COVID-19 is so high that it demands we do things differently, the organization said on its website.
Health inequity is not new or limited to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, but the pandemic has brought the problem into sharper focus as more than 2.8 million people have died from the virus, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press event about the campaign.
“The hard truth is that some of these people died simply because they could not get the care they needed because of where they live, or who they are, or how much they earn,” he said. “The pandemic is not only exposing and exploiting inequalities, it is exacerbating them.”
Although WHO is addressing the issue broadly, one of the most visible inequities has been access to testing, treatment, and, most recently, vaccinations for COVID-19.
According to the report, 86% of the half billion vaccines administered as of April 1 have been given in high-income countries with only 0.1% being administered in low-income countries, a staggering difference.
In its report on the subject, WHO says health inequities are based on the social and economic standing of individuals including where they are born, live and work, and their access to power, resources and decision-making.
“These conditions include a person’s education; income; access to social protection (e.g. affordable child services, sickness pay, unemployment protection; and pensions); access to quality health services and good nutrition; access to healthy housing and clean air; and to financial and judicial services,” according to the WHO report.
The lower one’s status, the organization writes, the less chance of having access to adequate health care.
To create a fairer reality across the globe, WHO is calling on governments to address five core areas, Tedros said:
“First, commit to equitable access to vaccines, tests, treatment and services for COVID-19, within and between countries;
“Second, strengthen health information systems and invest in better data to shine a light on inequalities and who is being left behind.;
“Third, protect and prioritize health in budgets, including in stimulus spending and for longer term recovery plans;
“Fourth, deliver equitable access to services and infrastructure to ensure safe, healthy and inclusive neighborhoods in both urban and rural areas; and,
“Fifth, strengthen primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.”