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Working together for universal healthcare

14 August 2017
Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary
Realising the right to health requires concerted efforts that put people, not profit, at the centre of policy. A better future can be guaranteed for humankind only when health for all is an undisputable reality. PSI welcomes the renewed vigour that Dr Tedros Adhanom has brought to bear in emphasising his total commitment to universal health coverage.

This spirit, which he has demonstrated in the short period since he resumed office on 1 July, should inspire renewed assurances of governments to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.8. These assurances will be concrete only when they include social partnership and cooperation.

The adoption of the recommendations of the United Nations High-level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth as the Working for Health Five-Year Action Plan by the World Health Assembly is quite significant in two ways.

Firstly, it identifies the need for expanding and transforming the global health and social workforce as being central to achieving health for all. It also underscores the critical importance of working together, particularly in the form of concerted tripartite social dialogue.

PSI affiliates across the world have imbibed the spirit of working together. As health workers, teamwork is an intrinsic element of our work, in delivering much needed services to our communities. And as unions, advocacy is a very useful mechanism for winning policy influence.

Now, more than ever, we must ensure that the commitments made by our governments at the 70th World Health Assembly are concretised in practical action that strengthen public health systems by promoting health employment and inclusive economic growth.

There is really no justifiable basis for 150 million people to be pushed below the poverty line every year as a result of healthcare expenditure. As we pointed out at the launch of the PSI Human Right to Health global campaign, the present debilitating situation for the immense majority of people is the result of political choices and can be reversed by political choices. 

Making the political choices that will reverse the trend established over some four decades of neoliberal reforms will not be easy. There are vested interests behind the waves of privatisation in its different forms. When big businesses think of health they only see the estimated $5.8 trillion worth of health and social care services per annum, and not the wellbeing of people.

But when people are united and determined, they cannot be defeated. We thus need to mobilise public opinion around universal public healthcare as the surest way to safeguard the primacy of people over profit in providing universal access to quality health. This is important, and must continually be on our mind, as we advance with other social partners on the path towards health for all.

This article is an extract from the “Right to Health” newsletter issue 03/2017. Subscribe to the newsletter. Send us your stories.

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