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How to increase global life expectancy by 6.7 years by 2030

By Chukwuma Muanya
26 May 2022   |   3:46 am
Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in his opening address at the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), on Monday May 23, 2022, said investing in primary health care

World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivers a speech on the opening day of 75th World Health Assembly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva on May 22, 2022. (Photo by JEAN-GUY PYTHON / AFP)

•World Health Assembly re-elects Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to second term as WHO Director-General
•Promoting health, providing medical services top Ghebreyesus’ five priorities for next five years

Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in his opening address at the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), on Monday May 23, 2022, said investing in primary health care (PHC) could increase global life expectancy by as much as 6.7 years by 2030.

Ghebreyesus said, by contrast, 90 per cent of essential health services can be delivered through primary health care. He said: “…We need a radical shift to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage, with a significant increase in investments in primary health care in all countries – high, middle, low income. We have seen globally that the weakness is in primary health care.

“Crucially, we call on all Member States to ensure that seeking health care is never a source of financial hardship.

“The Secretariat’s proposed target therefore is to support 25 countries to halt the rise in financial hardship caused by out-of-pocket health spending by 2025.

“The second priority is providing health services – by reorienting health systems towards primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.

“At present, health spending in most countries is imbalanced towards secondary and tertiary care, with huge amounts spent on expensive equipment and medicines that often deliver modest health gains.”

On where he believes WHO will be in the next five years, Ghebreyesus said he had in January outlined his five priorities for the next five years.

He said, since then, the Secretariat has been further developing how they will work with Member States to deliver on these priorities:
•Promoting health – by addressing the root causes of disease and creating the conditions for good health and well being;
•Providing health services – by reorienting health systems towards primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage;
•Protecting health – by strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience;
•Powering progress – by harnessing science, research, innovation, data, and digital technologies;
•And performing – by building a stronger WHO that delivers results, and is reinforced to play its leading role in global health.

Meanwhile, WHO Member States, on Tuesday, re-elected Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to serve a second five-year term as Director-General of the world’s leading public health agency. Tedros was first elected in 2017. His re-election was confirmed during the 75th WHA in Geneva. He was the sole candidate.

The 75th WHA is being held in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 22-28, 2022. It is the first in-person Health Assembly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme of this year’s Health Assembly is: Health for peace, peace for health. The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies with international reach have highlighted the leadership and coordinating role of WHO in responding to such events. Strengthening preparedness for and response to health emergencies are a key theme of the Health Assembly.

Events began with a high-level segment on May 22 with speeches from the elected Health Assembly President, Heads of State, special guests, an address by the WHO Director-General and the presentation of the Director-General’s Health Awards.

Ghebreyesus said: “First, promoting health. Realising our vision for the highest attainable standard of health starts not in the clinic or the hospital, but in schools, streets, supermarkets, households and suburbs.

“Much of the work that you do as Ministries of Health is dealing with the consequences of poor diets, polluted environments, unsafe roads and workplaces, inadequate health literacy, and the aggressive marketing of products that harm health.

“We need an urgent paradigm shift, towards promoting health and well-being and preventing disease by addressing its root causes.

“Globally, only three percent of health budgets are spent on promotion and prevention. And yet increased investment in these areas could reduce the global disease burden by half, generating massive returns for individuals, families, communities and nations.”

He called on every government to put the health of its people at the centre of its plans for development and growth. Ghebreyesus said, in the next five years, WHO is committed to supporting all Member States to focus attention on the highest-impact transformations: to decarbonize your health sectors; to implement air quality standards; to reduce car dependence and promote public transport; to ensure all health facilities have electricity, and safe water and sanitation; to improve diet, nutrition and food safety; and in particular to stop the rise in obesity in 24 high-burden countries by 2025; and to reduce consumption of health-harming products.

Ghebreyesus said the second priority is providing health services – by reorienting health systems towards primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.

He said, at present, health spending in most countries is imbalanced towards secondary and tertiary care, with huge amounts spent on expensive equipment and medicines that often deliver modest health gains.

He said the third priority is protecting health – by strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response and resilience.

The WHO DG said, in response to the request from the Executive Board, and in consultation with Member States, the Secretariat has prepared a proposal for a more equitable, inclusive and coherent global architecture.

Ghebreyesus said this proposal synthesizes and builds on more than 300 recommendations from the various reviews of the global response to the pandemic.

He said the international accord, which Member States are now negotiating, would provide a vital overarching legal framework, under which we make 10 recommendations, in three key areas.

“First, we need governance that is coherent, inclusive and accountable. Second, we need stronger systems and tools to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to health emergencies. And third, we need adequate and efficient financing, domestically and internationally,” Ghebreyesus said.

He said, underpinning these proposals, the world need a stronger and sustainably financed WHO at the centre of the global health security architecture.

He said their fourth strategic priority is powering progress – by harnessing science, research, innovation, data, and digital technologies.

Ghebreyesus said advances in science and research are constantly pushing back the boundaries of the unknown and the impossible, increasing the world’s understanding, and opening new possibilities.

He said innovations in health products and service delivery offer give the world hope of overcoming challenges that once seemed insurmountable.

The WHO DG said developments in big data and machine learning are helping the world to see who is being left behind, where the biggest gaps are, and to track progress against targets.

He said digital technologies offer huge potential for delivering health services in new ways, to more people, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

Ghebyresus said to pick up the pace towards the “triple billion” targets and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “we must pick up the pace and scale at which science, research, innovations and digital technologies are adopted and implemented.”

He said equity is key: the best science and innovations are those that make the biggest difference to people who are furthest behind. He said this couldn’t be left to chance, goodwill or market forces.

He said the Secretariat’s proposal for the next five years is to support the scaling of at least five innovations that reach at least five million people each.

Ghebreyesus said the fifth priority is performing – by building a stronger WHO that delivers results, and is reinforced to play its leading role in global health.

He said the pandemic has demonstrated why the world needs WHO, but also why the world needs a stronger, empowered and sustainably financed WHO.