World Health Day 2024

Date:  08 April 2024

World Health Day 2024

A call for equitable healthcare in the Western Pacific

7 April is World Health Day, and the theme for 2024 is ‘My health, my right’. Dr Ian Kennet Bermeo, Vice President for Operations of Adventist Medical Center, Manila, participated in the WHO Western Pacific Region celebration on behalf of the IHF and the Philippine Hospital Association and shares his reflections on the experience.

On the warm morning of 5 April 2024, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, located along UN Avenue in Manila, Philippines, became a stage of hope and progress as representatives of the Philippines government, ambassadors, and members of the diplomatic corps, UN representatives and partners, gathered to celebrate World Health Day 2024. The theme for this year, “My health, my right,” not only reverberated through the Conference Hall of the WHO office but also signalled a call to action for the entire Western Pacific Region.

The milestone event was marked by the impactful address of Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala, the newly appointed WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. As the first Regional Director from the Pacific islands, Dr Piukala brings a fresh perspective and a renewed commitment to the health rights of the region’s people. “Health is a human right.” Dr Piukala emphatically stated, underlining the foundational belief that drives the WHO’s mission. His speech, infused with his experiences as a surgeon with nearly 30 years of experience as a public health leader working in Tonga and across the Pacific and former Minister of Health in Tonga, highlighted the stark health inequities that persist, with a staggering 782 million people in the region struggling to access essential health services.

This call to action resonates deeply with the missions of both the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) and the IHF. The PHA, with its commitment to “Leading, enabling, assisting, protecting hospitals towards quality service,”, and its initiatives around enhancing hospital services and patient care standards, align closely with the themes of equity and rights-based policies emphasized in the World Health Day 2024 celebration.

Similarly, the IHF’s mission to “connect healthcare leaders through international knowledge exchange and showcasing good practices” is particularly pertinent. The federation’s focus on supporting healthcare leaders with training and development dovetails with the need for a comprehensive approach to healthcare reform in the region – one that prioritizes access, quality, and sustainability. The IHF’s role as the voice of hospitals on the global stage amplifies the call for international cooperation to address the health challenges highlighted by Dr Piukala.

In response to Dr Piukala’s speech, both the PHA and the IHF are poised to play crucial roles. The challenges outlined – ranging from health inequities to the dire need for health system transformation – demand a collaborative response. By leveraging their networks, resources, and expertise, these organizations can facilitate the sharing of innovative practices and solutions that cater to the unique needs of the Western Pacific region.

Moreover, the emphasis on primary healthcare transformation and the pursuit of universal health coverage echo the PHA’s and IHF’s shared objectives of improving hospital services and patient care. Initiatives aimed at making healthcare more accessible and affordable can significantly benefit from the exchange of knowledge and best practices facilitated by these organizations.

As World Health Day 2024 underscores the right to health as an inalienable human right, it calls upon the hospital industry, healthcare leaders, and policymakers to unite in their efforts. The path forward, as outlined by Dr Piukala, requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses healthcare financing reforms, workforce investments, and a stronger focus on preventive care.

The day was filled with diverse activities that highlighted the approach needed to address the region’s health challenges. The programme included a variety of speeches and performances:

  • Ms Laura Davison, Executive Officer, WHO Western Pacific Region Office, opened the event, setting the stage for a day of insightful discussions and presentations.
  • WHO Western Pacific Region Director: Division Health Systems and Services, Mr Lluis Vinals Torres’ shared remarks about “Health for All” through transformative primary health care.
  • WHO Representative to Vietnam, Dr Angela Pratt, presented a country focus report on childhood vaccination efforts in Vietnam reinforced by Vietnam’s Deputy Director National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Dr Duong Thi Hong.
  • The International Federation of Medical Students’ Association Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, Mr Kenneth Lam, gave a speech on youth perspectives in health.
  • Dr Kristin Alford, a futurist and Museum of Discovery Director from the University of South Australia, provided a forward-looking view on the future of health.
  • Cultural presentations from the WHO WPRO Music and Dance Companies inspired the event with artistic expressions of the day’s themes.

Each presentation and performance underscored the interconnectedness of global health initiatives and the importance of collaborative efforts to ensure health equity. They highlighted the critical role that organizations like the PHA and IHF play in mobilizing resources, sharing knowledge, and fostering partnerships to tackle health disparities head-on.

In closing, World Health Day 2024 not only highlighted the pressing health issues of our time but also set the stage for an era of increased collaboration and innovation in the hospital industry. Through the combined efforts of the WHO, IHF, PHA, and other stakeholders, the vision of equitable health for all in the Western Pacific is not just a distant dream but a tangible goal within reach should we work efficiently in synergy.

Written by:

Katherine Bennett

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