WHO recommends action on key social policies to make the world fairer and healthier

On World Health Day, WHO calls on governments to put equity at the heart of COVID-19 recovery.

COVID-19 has affected us all, but some have fared worse than others simply because of the jobs they do and the insecurity of their living conditions and livelihoods. For instance, the effects of COVID-19 containment measures were felt unequally, with people from lower income groups at higher risk of losing their jobs. Estimates suggest that in the first month of the pandemic alone, informal workers, including those working in warehouses and call centres, domestic workers, seasonal workers and low-paid contract workers in the health and care sectors in Europe and Central Asia lost 70% of their income.

This World Health Day, marked each year on 7 April, WHO is calling on leaders to put inclusiveness and equity at the heart of all recovery responses to create a fairer, healthier world.

“Why is it that some people have felt the effects of COVID-19 more sharply?” said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “Quite simply, the cards have been stacked against them in terms of jobs, housing, community, social support and health care. It’s time that everyone is dealt a fair hand, and we rebuild from the pandemic, setting our sights higher than surviving, to thriving.”

What can governments do for a fairer, healthier world?

Action is urgently needed by the health sector and across government to remove the barriers to a fairer and healthier life for all. 80% of Europeans believe that reducing inequities should be top of their government’s agenda. When governments implement the right policies, gaps in health can be reduced in as little as 4 years. A WHO health equity policy tool has shown that policies in the following areas have the highest potential to close health gaps and positively impact health and well-being, especially if they are implemented together:

1. reducing the burden of out-of-pocket payments for health, making health care accessible and affordable for everyone;2. strengthening social protection to reduce income inequity and guarantee a basic degree of income security; 3. increasing investment in quality and affordable housing and safe, vibrant neighbourhoods; 4. proactively helping people to have decent and healthy work and reducing unemployment; 5. strengthening education and life-long learning, as improving literacy and numeracy increases people’s ability to take control of their lives; and 6. increasing civic participation, reducing crime and generating social connections.

“We commend the efforts of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in providing treatment and cure to each COVID-19 patient, whether in possess of a health insurance or not, ultimately granting equal access to healthcare for everyone,” said Dr. Fabio Scano, acting WHO Country Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown many lessons and the importance of the essential health services everyone needs without exposure to financial hardship”, concluded Dr. Scano.

“On behalf of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, World Health Day is the appropriate moment to launch this campaign for a fairer, healthier world. COVID-19 has exposed fragilities and fractures within our societies, impacting disproportionately many who were already vulnerable and marginalized. We have had to work together to tackle the pandemic, we must now redouble these efforts to ensure a recovery that leaves no one behind.” said Dr. Ingrid Macdonald, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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