Delivered by Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, Social Services, Gender Affairs & Community Development
Hon Wendy Colleen Phipps Saturday, April 7, 2018
Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts & Nevis:
Today, April 7th is being observed globally as World Health Day. On this day, all of the United Nations (UN) Member States shine the spotlight on the status of health and wellness in our planet. This year’s World Health Day is being celebrated under the theme: “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere”, with the accompanying slogan: “Health for All”.
As is customary, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is taking the lead on this international observance of World Health Day to raise awareness; advocate for further investment in health care; and ensure that poor, indigent and other disadvantaged groups are not denied access to quality health care just because they cannot afford it. Access to quality health care is a basic human right of all persons, and every UN member country has a solemn obligation to provide such – and, in particular, to persons who may be marginalized. This principle is precisely the core mandate that has driven the WHO during its 70-year history.
The Federal Government considers it rather timely that the WHO would choose universal health coverage as its 2018 World Health Day theme. It is no secret that our Team Unity Administration would have campaigned strongly about providing universal health coverage to every individual in our Country, simply because our people (1) are our greatest asset; and (2) deserve to live their lives with dignity. This promise is being actively pursued and steady progress has been made by a national commission to introduce the well-needed coverage – especially for persons who cannot afford the cost of their own care.
Our Team Unity Government also realises that persons with critical illnesses could very well find themselves confronting serious financial challenges as the cost of treatment could be prohibitive, and can quickly wipe out one’s life savings. The result is a major downward slide in an individual’s socio-economic status, and can result in bankruptcy. Among such major illnesses confronting our people is kidney disease, given that the cost of haemodialysis can total almost EC$125,000 per individual, per year. Universal Health Coverage should make the cost of such health care more accessible and affordable to patients.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates World Health Day 2018 we should be mindful of the fact that good health is a blessing that should not be taken for granted. Every citizen and resident of our Federation has the right and the responsibility to police his or her health, to have regular medical check-ups, and practice healthy diets and lifestyles that are inclusive of regular physical activity. Our Nation’s health care providers in the public and private sectors are willing partners with our people – but good health begins with each and every one of us doing our part to get fit, get healthy, and remain that way for as long as possible.
Our national and international data on health care continues to demonstrate that when access to care is enhanced – and good health prevails – quality of life is improved and life expectancy increases. As such, the Federal Ministries of Health and Social Services are fully committed to serving our people so that the added benefits of good health and wellness can accrue. These include job creation, poverty reduction, elimination of hunger, competitiveness through our human resource base, and greater attraction of investment in our economy.
The WHO is careful to note in this year’s World Health Day message that while universal health coverage should be a basic goal of all countries – and makes a major difference in the lives of all people – the reality on the ground is far different. Some of the key WHO statistics are as follows:
1. At least 50% of the world’s population do not have access to essential health services;
2. Some 12% of the world’s population (or 800 million people) spent at least 10% of their household income on health expenses for themselves and their families;
3. Almost 100 million people are being driven into extreme poverty, meaning that they are living on less than approximately US$2 per day due to the need to pay for health care out of their own pockets.
4. The high cost of health care is a global problem, even in rich, developed countries within Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia. Even in these countries the minimum household expenditure on health care is still 10%.
As we observe World Health Day 2018 it is important to note that universal health coverage is not simply a matter of making financial provision for the cost of health care to all persons, regardless of colour, creed, gender or social status.
Provision of universal health coverage also means that Governments must also ensure that there is gradual expansion in medical services; adequate investment in new medical technologies, plant, equipment and infrastructure; necessary updating of medical legislation and regulations; and continued provision of traditional public health services such as safe water supply, immunization, and vector control to prevent diseases carried by mosquitoes, rodents and other pests.
It should be noted that wherever possible, the imperative for continuous improvement in medical and health services should be executed in partnership for maximum result: the Government, the private sector, and donor agencies all have a role to play – since none of these entities can achieve our health and wellness goals independently. It is due to this spirit of partnership that the Ministry of Health is pleased to announce that in observance of World Health Day 2018 Government has partnered with Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine to stage a Community
Health Fair at the Pogson Medical Centre in Sandy Point today, April 7th, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This programme will entail free wellness screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass index (BMI), vision, heart and lungs. Health Education and Nutrition Counselling will also be provided, as well as an Exercise Station. We encourage residents in Sandy Point and other communities to take advantage of this free health screening opportunity.
The Ministry also wishes to remind the public that these services are normally provided on a regular basis at the 17 health centres and four hospitals in the Federation. Members of the public are therefore encouraged to visit these community and institution-based health facilities and participate in these screenings, most of which are still free of cost.