New Delhi: WHO on Friday urged South East Asian nations including India to focus on providing affordable and quality health services to those who need them even as it said that nearly 400 million people still did not have access to essential health services globally.
"Health is critical to development. Access to safe, affordable and good quality health services enables people to be more productive and active contributors to their families, communities and nations," said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
She was speaking at the five-day WHO Regional Committee meeting held in Dili, Timor-Leste, attended by Health Ministers and high-level ministerial delegations of 11 member countries, where Universal Health Coverage (UHC) figured prominently.
WHO stressed that action for UHC needs to take into account changing health needs.
With the increase in non-communicable diseases and the rise in numbers of the elderly, often with multiple health conditions, a new thinking is needed on ways to deliver health services, it said.
"We need to learn more about new service delivery models that aim to give people access to the care they need, when they need it, without suffering financial hardship. The question is how well they are working," said Singh.
Singh said that governments need to invest more into strengthening their health workforce which is key to expanding quality health services.
She said that improved delivery of services needs to happen in parallel with improved financing if real progress on UHC is to be made. "The number of poor people paying out of their own pocket for care when they are sick needs to be reduced as this increases their hardship," WHO said in a statement.
It said that patient safety is another area central to advancing UHC as people will not use services they think are unsafe. Though countries in the Region have been making efforts, a lot more needs to be done, Singh said.
WHO's South-East Asia Region comprises of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.