public health

Innovative financing for women's health becomes vital when purse strings tighten

Innovative financing for women’s health becomes vital when purse strings tighten

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of weak health systems that were ill-prepared to withstand the onslaught of the pandemic. As documented by the Pulse survey of the WHO, the pandemic has resulted in the disruption of essential health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, in most countries. Weak and perpetually poorly resourced health systems have escalated the woes of the public, more so in low- and lower-middle-income countries. This disaster has reinforced the need for countries to not only increase their public health spending but also explore innovative ways of financing healthcare systems. More than 50% of countries in Asia and the Pacific region come under the category of low- and lower-middle-income countries. While there has been economic growth in the region resulting in corresponding improvements in health service delivery systems, in many countries these gains are unjustly reserved for the elite few in terms of quality and timely services, says Dr Ashish Bajracharya, Population Council’s Deputy Director for global country strategy and regional representative for South and East Asia. Large parts of our populations still have an unmet need in sexual and reproductive health and out-of-pocket expenditures continue to pay for most of the healthcare expenditures. For Dr Bajracharya, it is critical to work towards universal health coverage and to promote sustainable financing strategies, including heightening of commitments of state resources for sexual and reproductive health. Dr Bajracharya was Chairing the sixth session of the ongoing virtual series of 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR10). Two interesting studies were presented in this APCRSHR10 session from Pakistan and the Philippines. The first study was presented by Dr Moazzam Ali, noted epidemiologist at the World Health Organization (WHO), who shared the results of a research project on “demand-side financing” implemented in two districts of Punjab province of Pakistan to meet birth spacing needs of the underserved. What is demand-side financing? Dr Ali explains that the three key components of any demand-side financing project are (i) a pre-specified target group, like, pregnant women, children under five years of age, poor households, etc; (ii)…

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi’s talisman is the best guiding light to reform public health

A close up of text on a white background   Mahatma Gandhi’s talisman is perhaps the best guiding light to reform the public health system in the wake of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic: “I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test- “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will, he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.” Our health system must meet the needs of the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak. And the same quality of service which goes to this person should be a benchmark for everyone else. COVID-19 pandemic has some blessings-in-disguise too. For example, it is evident that there is no role of the private sector when we are confronted with a public health emergency. Only public services, no matter how weak they may be, are to be relied upon. Nationalization of private health sector is one of the most important political decisions that a government can take in the wake of this public health calamity. This step will immediately increase the public health infrastructure, trained and skilled healthcare workers, and will also curtail the unbridled damage privatisation has brought to the public health sector over the years in myriad ways. But the manner in which we invest and foster a sense of national pride in our military and army, is it the same way we treat our public health service workers and others who are risking their lives in this grave time of crisis (such as, farmers and vegetable sellers, grocery shop workers, police, community kitchen workers, social workers, journalists, and others)? Can we survive if farmers stop working?…