The World Bank and the World Health Organization said that more than half a billion people globally were pushed into extreme poverty last year as they paid for health costs out of their own pockets during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic disrupted health services globally and triggered the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, making it even more difficult for people to pay for healthcare, a joint statement from both organizations said.
“All governments must immediately resume and accelerate efforts to ensure every one of their citizens can access health services without fear of the financial consequences,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as he urged governments to increase their focus on health care systems and stay on course towards universal health coverage.
WHO defines universal health coverage as everyone getting access to the health services they need without financial hardship and even in the United States, it is a major political issue as it is one of the few industrialized countries that does not offer it to its citizens.
Aside from people all over the world being pushed into extreme poverty by health care costs, the pandemic also worsened the state of public health as immunization coverage dropped for the first time in ten years, with deaths from tuberculosis and malaria increasing.
The globe remains in crisis, and as rich countries struggle to upgrade their health care systems, bigger challenges face poorer countries like the Philippines. The past two years have vividly demonstrated the importance of public health and universal health coverage and it is now up to our leaders to sort out the priorities of government as we hopefully recover from the devastation of the pandemic and look towards a future that is hopefully tinged with more brightness compared to previous years.
Recovery from the pandemic is finally within sight but much has to be done to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes as the past. A renewed focus on public health and universal health care has to part of any country’s plan to move forward.*