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Take bold, co-operative action to make medicines available to all: WHO


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00


 

The World Health Organization last week called on countries across the South-East Asia Region to take bold action to ensure all people everywhere have access to safe, efficacious, quality and affordable medical products, laying particular emphasis on the need to leverage collective strengths via greater intercountry cooperation. 

“Overcoming barriers and ensuring all people everywhere can access essential medicines is one of WHO South-East Asia’s priority areas of work, and is vital to achieving universal health coverage, and with it the Sustainable Development Goal of health and wellbeing for all. Significant progress has been made in recent years, including the creation of the South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN) in 2016, which pools the Region’s regulatory resources to enhance the safety and quality of medicines. We need to build on that progress and strengthen regional cooperation in a range of areas to further address this critical issue,” Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said.  

Across the South-East Asia Region, an estimated 65 million people are pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket healthcare payments, with the cost of medicines being one of the main causes. Poor-quality or unsafe medicines likewise affects peoples’ ability to access the treatment they need, when they need it, while weak supply chains and inefficient procurement provide similar barriers.      

Dr. Khetrapal Singh outlined five key areas where countries can work together, and with WHO, to drive substantial gains in access to medicines across the Region.  

“First, intercountry and regional collaboration on public procurement and pricing can be scaled up, including through sharing information on medicines prices. This will enhance countries’ negotiating positions when they are purchasing on the international market,” she said.

Second, the Regional Director emphasised, is the need to fully operationalise the SEARN initiative and take advantage of comparative strengths in regulatory capacity.  

“Third, there is great potential for increased use of regionally produced, quality generic products,” the Regional Director stressed. “There is likewise a pressing need to take advantage of TRIPS flexibilities and other opportunities in intellectual property and trade rules.”

Fourth, Dr. Khetrapal Singh noted that rational use of medicines – especially antimicrobials – is vitally important Region-wide to ensure these drugs remain fit for purpose. She urged countries to improve antimicrobial stewardship by applying the ACCESS, WATCH and RESERVE system outlined in WHO’s recently published Essential Medicines List.

Fifth, the Regional Director said, “There is an urgent need for improved data on trends in access to medicines. Good data enable decision-makers to know how many people cannot access the medicines they need and where medicines are not available; whether unsafe or ineffective products are on sale, and the scale of misuse or wastage of medicines.”

The Regional Director affirmed WHO’s ongoing support to countries as they strive to enhance access to medicines, which is a key agenda item at the Seventieth session of the Regional Committee, which is currently being held in Maldives. The Regional Committee is the highest decision-making body for public health in the South-East Asia Region, and includes health ministers and senior health ministry officials of the Region’s 11 Member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.


 

To achieve SDG vision, revive and adapt primary healthcare services and monitor access inequalities: WHO

Male, Maldives: The World Health Organization has emphasised the critical need for countries in the South-East Asia Region to strengthen primary healthcare – including the skills of frontline health workers – and enhance monitoring of health services coverage and financial protection as they strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of health and wellbeing for all.

“There is an urgent need to revive and adapt frontline services and health workers to meet today’s needs. By doing this countries can accelerate public health gains, including by reducing maternal and child mortality and strengthening health security. They can also tackle looming challenges such as the increased burden of noncommunicable diseases. Though efforts across the Region have been commendable, countries must strengthen their delivery of patient-centred, integrated care to drive further gains and ensure no one is left behind,” Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said.    

Despite progress, gaps in health services coverage in the region continue to exist. At least 130 million people still lack access to one or more of seven essential health services, with access to care worse for the poor, those with less education and, to a lesser degree, those living in rural areas.

“Enhancing the skills of health staff is an important means for countries to strengthen primary health care and ensure essential services are available. This can be done through ongoing training initiatives that equip health workers and health teams with the skills needed to address a range of health issues, including identification and care of chronic conditions. Equally important are efforts to increase health worker retention, particularly in rural areas,” she said. “Careful attention must be paid to the distribution of health workers’ skill-sets across the health system to ensure all communities, regardless of location, can access essential services.”

Dr. Khetrapal Singh also noted the need to establish sustainable financing for frontline services, saying an important way for countries to strengthen primary health services is to ensure they are equitably and efficiently financed. “As service delivery models change it is essential that both prevention and treatment receive adequate resources and funding. Strategies must be linked to resource flows so that communities can rely on frontline services for a range of health issues,” the Regional Director emphasised.

As countries strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of health and wellbeing for all, the development of country-specific targets and implementation of effective monitoring systems is vital. Almost all countries have now developed their own targets, while all of them have measured and reported progress using two indicators – one tracking health services coverage; the other tracking financial risk protection.

“Countries in the region are taking the steps needed to set and achieve their goals, including by monitoring progress. Better national health data – including input from both public and private facilities – and more in-depth analysis will provide the insight needed to act as efficiently as possible,” Dr. Khetrapal Singh said.

The Regional Director expressed WHO’s commitment to produce an annual report on progress towards universal health coverage and the health-related SDGs, which is a key agenda item at the Seventieth session of the Regional Committee currently being held in Maldives. The Regional Committee is the highest decision-making body for public health in the South-East Asia Region, and includes health ministers and senior health ministry officials of the Region’s 11 Member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

 

 


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