UNITED NATIONS, Apr 08 (APP):UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has spotlighted the importance of universal health coverage to mark the World Health Day.

In his message for the day, which was observed on Sunday, he pointed out that half the world’s population is still unable to obtain the essential health services they need.

He added that universal health coverage is about changing the situation and ensuring equitable access to health services for all without people experiencing financial hardship as a result.

To achieve the goal, Guterres stressed the need to investment “in people” for trained and skilled health workers and communities with access to health care.

He also highlighted the importance of mental health, “so often stigmatized and forgotten.”

“Health is a human right,” he stressed in the message. “Political commitment and partnerships will be crucial in bringing it to life.”

In closing, the UN chief urged “let us show the world that we are ready to bridge the gaps in health-care coverage worldwide and deliver health for all.”

The 2019 World Health Day focuses on universal health coverage and the crucial role primary health care plays in making such coverage a reality.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also reiterated the UN’s stance on health: that it is a fundamental human right, not a privilege.

Speaking at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, during an event to launch the Day, the WHO chief said that all people deserve access to health services, “when and where they need them, without financial hardship.”

However, half the world’s population, he said, still lacks access to essential health services, with around 100 million people pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. This is why the WHO is focusing on its number one goal this year: universal health care.

The UN agency defines universal health care as meaning that all individuals and communities are able to access the health services they need – from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care – without suffering financial hardship.

When people are not protected from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets, they may have to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow, destroying their futures and often those of their children.

Achieving universal health coverage is one of the targets the nations of the world set when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015: good health provides the basis for long-term economic development, allowing children to learn and adults to earn, and helping people escape from poverty.

The WHO is calling on all countries to invest in primary health care, which Mr. Ghebreyesus described as the “bedrock of universal health coverage,” covering the majority of health needs throughout a person’s life.