Today is World Health Day, and this year marks 75 years of the World Health Organization. This year’s theme #HealthForAll underscores the need for universal access to quality health services to create a fairer and healthier world, where everyone has access to quality health services and can achieve their full potential. Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, yet approximately one-third of the world’s population still faces significant barriers to accessing essential healthcare services.
The COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies, as well as humanitarian and climate crises, economic difficulties, and armed conflicts, has intensified the pressing need for global action towards achieving health equity for all.
While continued collaboration and partnership to advance public health goals is urgent, there is a responsibility to clearly articulate whose “health for all”?
This year’s theme holds particular significance for the Australian Global Health Alliance, as it aligns with our commitment on three distinct but intersecting global health challenges that are critical to attaining health for all: (1) shifting of power for all to lead and benefit, (2) addressing climate change and health security in our region, and (3) advancing gender equality.
As a global health community, we believe that committed action on these strategic objectives and prioritisation across research, policy and leadership is critical to achieve equitable and sustainable healthcare for all individuals and communities in our region and globally.
Shifting power in global health
The Alliance is proud that at our foundation was an intention to align global First Nations health with Indigenous Australian leadership and action. We recognise the colonial, historical nature of global health and many of its institutions, and continue to reckon with this as a community. Our Australian-based membership is committed to shifting power in global health partnerships, research partnering and funding towards health equity and a transformed future of equality as a customary norm for all global health engagement. Our collective aim is to deepen collaboration among the global health community, as well as to promote and curate knowledge-sharing.
All genders still need greater recognition, protection and respect for society to thrive and individuals to reach their full potential. In particular, women, girls and transgender people still face a significant shortfall in access to and uptake of healthcare services due to gender discrimination.
Globally it is estimated that 257 million women who want to prevent pregnancy do not have access to safe and modern contraception methods, with decision-making power for women remaining a significant barrier to progress. In far too many cases, hard won-gains have been reversed; just this week in the United States, the Florida Senate passed a bill banning access to safe abortion past the gestational age of 6 weeks – a time period before many women even know they are pregnant.
The transgender community are facing unprecedented hate crimes, as well as lack of access to basic health rights in many countries. For the wider LGBTQ+ community, we remain incredibly concerned about the ongoing removal of their health and human rights. Uganda’s recent anti-gay legislation, for example, will reinforce stigma and discrimination, and hinder access to safe healthcare, including life-saving HIV treatment and prevention services. Trans women remain disproportionately affected by HIV.
As an Australian global health community, we will continue to advocate for marginalised and diverse voices, domestically, regionally and globally – and empower the next generation of advocates – to ensure that health equity for all genders can be achieved.
Planetary Health and Climate Change and Health Security
The most vulnerable populations in the Asia-Pacific region – women, children and ethnic rural minorities – are also those whose lives are most affected by the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.
While the global health community now recognises Climate Change as the biggest threat to global health of the 21st century, it has yet to translate to normative alignment in leadership around funding, research and programming at scale. This has to change – and at speed – for our common commitment to be realised and for the benefit of the wellbeing of Future Generations.
We support our communities to be educated and commit to common objectives around the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly prioritising the expertise of First Nations peoples and their role in protecting and caring for land, waters and health of all species.
The 75th anniversary of World Health Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable progress that has been made in public health over the past 75 years, while also recognizing the challenges that lie ahead. By working collaboratively and continuing to prioritise the shifting of power intentionally, acting on gender, climate change and health security, and integrating First Nations health and leadership within our community and region, we can build a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable world for all.