World Health Day 2022

Categories: Care, Featured, and Opinion.

World Health Day is celebrated annually on 7 April to commemorate the founding of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948 and to raise awareness of health-related issues. The theme for 2022 is our planet, our health. According to the WHO, environmental factors including climate change claim 13 million lives each year. In the midst of a pandemic, a polluted planet, increasing diseases like cancer, asthma, and heart disease, on World Health Day 2022, WHO will focus global attention on urgent actions needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being.

Today there are many people across the world who are unable to access palliative care services, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). As several countries in the world continue to advocate for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), it is important to note that we cannot achieve UHC without palliative care. Palliative care is a key component of the right to health and the UN SDG for good health and well-being.

In 2014, the World Health Assembly unanimously passed WHA.19 “Strengthening of Palliative Care as a Component of Comprehensive Care Throughout the Life Course.” This is a call to action for all member states to strengthen and integrate palliative care throughout their healthcare systems. According to the Global Atlas of Palliative Care 2nd Edition, it is estimated that over 56.8 million require palliative care every year, 31.1 million prior to and 25.7 million near the end of life. The majority (67.1%) are adults over 50 years old and at least 7% are children. The majority (54.2%) are non-decedents who need palliative care prior to their last year of life. The burden of severe illness and health-related suffering, and the corresponding need for palliative care, are immense. The majority of adults in need of palliative care (76%) live in LMICs, and the highest proportion is in countries of low income.

Without policies that support the provision of palliative care, it is quite difficult for any palliative care to develop. In some countries, there is no government support whatsoever for palliative care. Laws that acknowledge palliative care as part of healthcare are needed in policies. The majority of health professionals worldwide require knowledge of the principles and practices of palliative care. Another issue is that access to opioid medication for pain is an enormous problem worldwide. Over 80% of the world’s population lacks adequate access to opioid medication for pain control.

Palliative care is highly effective in relieving the pain and suffering of people living with and affected by life-limiting illnesses optimizing their quality of life from early in the course of their disease until the end of their lives. It is critically important that essential palliative care services are included as an integral part of the health spectrum. Collaboration between governments, technical agencies, philanthropists, academia, civil societies, and communities is necessary to ensure that everyone accesses palliative care when they need it. As we commemorate world health day, let us remember the needs of those who live with chronic conditions. People living with palliative care needs who are some of the most vulnerable in our societies, cannot continue to be left behind.

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