Paper III


The World Health Organization members gathered for the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland and agreed on ‘three resolutions’ to ensure that the world meets the universal health coverage (UHC) target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


  • The members of the World Health Organization (WHO) have gathered in Geneva for the 72nd World Health Assembly (May 20-28) to discuss multiple health issues affecting populations worldwide.
  • Theme:“Universal health coverage: leaving no-one behind”.
  • Each year, senior health officials from the World Health Organization’s the Member States gather there to discuss the WHO’s progress, new goals and global health agenda and challenges.
  • Over the next few days, health officials will discuss crucial health issues such as antimicrobial resistance, fight against tobacco, elimination of industrial trans-fat from the global food supply emergency preparedness and taxing sugar in food.


Implementing the ‘Declaration of Astana’:

  • The first resolution urges the Member States to take measures to implement the Declaration of Astana, which was adopted at the 2018 Global Conference on Primary Health Care.

Highlighting the role of community health workers:

  • It recognizes the key role strong primary health care plays in ensuring states can provide the full range of health services a person needs throughout their life.
  • The WHA calls to support such community health worker programmes and allocate adequate resources.
  • Such workers should be well-trained, effectively supervised and properly recognized for the work they do.
  • At present there is a shortfall of 18 million in the number of health workers in the world and this could severely hamper the progress towards UHC.

Push for Universal Health Coverage (UHC):

  • The final UHC resolution supports preparation for the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on universal health coverage in September 2019.
  • The resolution calls on the Member States to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage with a focus on poor, vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups.
  • The UN high-level meeting will call for the involvement of governments in coordinating the work required across all sectors to achieve universal health coverage.


  • The Declaration of Astana, unanimously endorsed by all WHO the Member States, makes pledges in four key areas:
    • make bold political choices for health across all sectors
    • build sustainable primary health care
    • empower individuals and communities
    • align stakeholder support to national policies, strategies and plans.
  • The Declaration of Astana reaffirms the historic 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata, the first time world leaders committed to primary health care.


  • Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
  • This definition of UHC embodies three related objectives:
    • Equity in access to health services – everyone who needs services should get them, not only those who can pay for them
    • The quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving services
    • People should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put people at risk of financial harm.
  • Universal Health Coverage is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948 declaring health a fundamental human right and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma Ata declaration in 1978.
  • The concept further cuts across all of the health-related SDGs and brings the hope of better health and protection for the world’s poorest.


  • Lack of access to health services: At least half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services, including care for non-communicable and communicable diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health.
  • Stunting: Close to six million children die every year before their fifth birthday mostly from preventable causes, and more than 150 million are stunted.


  • In India, there is a continuing rise in communicable diseases and a spurt in non-communicable or “lifestyle” diseases, which accounted for half of all deaths in 2015, up from 42 percent in 2001-03.
  • Though the government has taken various initiatives towards improving the living standards and the health situation of citizens in the country, the impact of them has not been as profound as anticipated.
  • India houses the maximum number of undernourished people globally and it is also the diabetic capital of the world.
  • India is far away from achieving its Sustainable Development Goals, and it is expected to miss its global nutrition targets set for 2025 and is ranked 145th among 195 countries in terms of accessibility and quality of healthcare.
  • Government’s spending on healthcare is still lower than the global average and the country is relying on the government’s flagship health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat for healthcare reforms.


  • Population: The biggest problem in the country is it’s ever-increasing population. The country has the world’s second-largest population, rising from 760 million in 1985 to an estimated 1.3 billion in 2015.
  • Infrastructure: The next is infrastructure as the existing healthcare infrastructure is not enough to meet the needs of the population. Here, hospitals are understaffed, under-financed, forcing patients to visit private medical hospitals.
  • Insurance: India has also one of the lowest per capita healthcare expenditures in the world. Unfortunately, the government’s contribution to insurance stands at roughly 32 percent.
  • Rural-urban disparity: The rural healthcare infrastructure is three-tiered and includes a sub-centre, primary health centre (PHC). PHCs are short of more than 3,000 doctors.


  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
  • It’s main functions are:
    • to determine the policies of the Organization
    • to appoint the Director-General
    • to supervise financial policies
    • to review and approve the proposed programme budget.
  • The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland.

The World Health Organization came into force on 7 April 1948 (now celebrated every year as World Health Day). With 194 Member States, it works to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system. Its main areas of work are health systems; health through the life-course; non-communicable and communicable diseases; preparedness, surveillance and response; and corporate services.


At the face of it, India is a booming economy and one of the fastest growing nations in the world. Yet, over half of its population suffers from health problems. The birth of a strong nation is not possible on a foundation of straws. The Government needs to design more effective policies in this direction and their implementation should be such that all citizens in the country are equally benefitted. Such measures would be pivotal in ensuring ‘health in all’ for every citizen of the nation.

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