World Health Day 2019 – how universal is our health coverage?
World Health Day 2019 falls on Sunday April 7. The Slogan, Universal Health coverage everyone, everywhere, tends, in the popular imagination, to focus our attention on developing countries that have no health insurance, inadequate vaccination programmes and underdeveloped health systems and facilities.
In contrast Australia has one of the best health systems in the world with universal free health coverage, the option of private insurance, a sophisticated and integrated two tier hospital system, access to scheduled and effective vaccination, world renowned research institutions and an integrated and timely emergency system. ‘The richness of our increasing diversity’ is evident in a visit to any hospital or health service, yet even a superficial look beneath the surface challenges us to greater inclusivity.
The report on Australia’s health 2018 tells us that compared with 35-member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia scores in the middle or highest range for most health indicators. Conversely Australia ranked in the worst third of OECD countries for obesity, and our alcohol consumption is slightly above the OECD average.
Not surprisingly obesity and alcohol consumption as well as other risk factors are highest in people who suffer socioeconomic disadvantage – Australia’s Health 2018 (AIHW).
The 40% of Australians in the lower two socioeconomic quintiles – ten million people – are more prone to behavioural risk factors such as physical inactivity; alcohol consumption and smoking, and the biomedical risks of high cholesterol; high blood pressure and obesity.
A global level socioeconomic position is largely influenced by economic, political, cultural and environmental determinants, educational attainment, income and occupation. The relationship is two-way—poor health can be both a product of, and contribute to, lower socioeconomic position. In the microcosm that is Australia the same applies, with identifiable groups tending to fall through the gaps in the health system. These include those unable or unwilling to access available services because of:
- Distance – those in rural and remote areas including some indigenous populations
- The homeless and unemployed; those with mental illness or disability
- Fear and shame- some cultural norms or personal fears keep people from seeking help
- Inability to use technology
- Inadequate education
- The complexity of the health system and bureaucracy
- Lack of awareness of what is available because of language barriers, an inability to read or comprehend information
- Lack of access to information
- No access to transport
- Lack of recognition of rights and needs, e.g., asylum seekers and refugees.
So, what is the challenge to us, Sisters, associates, friends and colleagues alike from the 26th General Chapter? Recently on Facebook Annie Bond rsj posted a quote from Christianity Today. It read: ‘helping one person may not change the world but it could change the world for one person.’
It is within the scope of many of us to do something for at least one person. In Ephesians 4; 11 St Paul identified the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers as necessary to equip God’s people for works of service. In Australia today could we add friends, neighbours, interpreters, readers, drivers, healers, pray-ers and advocates who can help make our health system ‘Universal for everyone, everywhere’ in Australia?
Antoinette Baldwin rsj