SWITZERLAND – The World Health Organization (WHO) in a novel paper has identified seven critical areas that must be strengthened in order to improve health services worldwide.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health services were exhausted and stretched far beyond their capacity; now, the World Health Organization has released its seven recommendations for ensuring the future of health systems in the aftermath of the last two years of devastation.

The WHO believes that this effort will help to accelerate the implementation of the International Health Regulations (2005), advancing health systems toward health-related sustainable development goals.

The recommendations come at a critical juncture in allowing policymakers and world leaders to situate health within broader discussions about socioeconomic recovery and transformation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a wide range of societal effects, causing significant setbacks in achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

The significant strain on health services throughout the pandemic has had a significant impact on these critical services, creating new barriers to accessing health care due to restrictions and resulting in unprecedented challenges around the world.

The reactive approach to the pandemic meant that society was always one step behind the disease; countries were exposed to the speed and severity of the COVID-19 outbreak if adequate strengthening and preparation were not in place.

Vulnerable populations have been disproportionately affected, exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and highlighting the need to rebuild health systems in a more sustainable, equitable, and community-centered manner.

The pandemic has been a significant setback in our efforts to support Member States’ progress toward universal health coverage,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

We can’t build a safer world from the top down; we have to start from the bottom up. Preparedness for, prevention of, detection of, and rapid response to epidemics begins with strong primary healthcare and public health systems, skilled health workers, and empowered and enabled communities to take charge of their own health. That must be the focal point of our attention and investment.”

The novel WHO paper was created to improve the resilience of health systems, securing their future against all types of public health threats and enhancing global health security.

According to the WHO, this will necessitate an integrated approach to constructing health services that meet the needs of the population before, during, and after public health emergencies.

The World Health Organization’s seven recommendations are:

  • Leverage the current response to strengthen both pandemic preparedness and health systems
  • Invest in essential public health functions, including those needed for all-hazards emergency risk management
  • Build a strong primary health care foundation
  • Invest in institutionalized mechanisms for whole-of-society engagement
  • Create and promote enabling environments for research, innovation, and learning
  • Increase domestic and global investment in health system foundations and all-hazards emergency risk management
  • Address preexisting inequities and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on marginalized and vulnerable populations

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