WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 2


Director, Department of Universal Health Coverage, Health Systems and Life Course WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia 12 December 2020

Date of Web Publication26-Feb-2021

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.309865

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How to cite this article:
Jhalani M. Foreword. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health 2021;10, Suppl S1:2

How to cite this URL:
Jhalani M. Foreword. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 14];10, Suppl S1:2. Available from: http://www.who-seajph.org/text.asp?2021/10/3/2/309865

This supplement to the WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health marks International Universal Health Coverage Day 2020. The theme of the day is “Health for all: protect everyone” and the slogan is “To end this crisis and build a safer and healthier future, we must invest in health systems that protect us all – now”. The issue makes an important contribution by documenting good practices during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to inform a practical way forward on building back better in relation to primary health care (PHC) for universal health coverage (UHC).

COVID-19 has changed public health and health development in a fundamental and irrevocable way. In the past 12 months, the pandemic has stretched the limits of health systems in the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region, as in all other regions. In addition, as reported by the Member States, most have also seen significant disruption of essential services across programmes. Furthermore, the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy has been unprecedented, making the overall context for recovery even more challenging.

Countries made significant efforts to meet these challenges within and beyond health, and will continue to do so in the next stage of the pandemic response – vaccine roll-out. There are valuable lessons to be learned here, which relate to the building blocks of health systems: the vital role of human resources for health; the importance of continued focus on access to affordable medicines as central to service delivery; in the wake of the economic crisis, the critical importance of public investment in public health; the potential for telehealth to improve access to services; and the significance of governance in relation to, for example, ensuring health worker security, engaging communities and the private sector, and ensuring equitable access to vaccines, as encapsulated by the COVID-19 vaccine global access initiative COVAX. The service delivery section of this issue looks at the specific experiences of major WHO South-East Asia Region programmes: reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, immunization and vaccines development, noncommunicable diseases and emergencies.

The COVID-19 experience in South-East Asia Region countries reinforces the importance of PHC. In fact, it validates the endorsement of the WHO Operational framework for primary health care: transforming vision into action by Member States at the 73rd World Health Assembly as guidance on PHC-centred systems strengthening for UHC.

Support to countries on the pandemic and on accelerating progress towards UHC and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will remain a priority for WHO’s work in the region in 2021. By bringing together the region’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, across programmes and system areas and in relation to the future of PHC, this issue makes a useful contribution to the knowledge base on the “how” of the operational framework.


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