In 1948, the WHO held the First World Health Assembly. The Assembly decided to celebrate 7 April of each year, with effect from 1950, as the World Health Day. Ever since every year this day is celebrated as world health day.
WHO has introduced newer strategies each year to help improve mankind’s health and demolish his suffering. Time, money, energy have been jelled well to achieve the goals, yet we are still far from it.
In 1977 the 30th World Health Assembly resolved that the main social target should be ‘the attainment by all citizens of the world by the year 2000 A.D. of a level of health that will permit them to lead a socially and economically productive life’ (WHO, 1979). The slogan was Health for All by the Year 2000 A.D. Health for all meant that every individual should have access to Primary Health Care , in 1978, the famous Alma Ata World Conference identified Primary Health Care as the key to the achievement of Health for all by 2000 A.D. In May 1979, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Declaration of Alma Ata and invited Member States to formulate their own national health policies.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity. This was how health was now defined.
All countries worked hard to improve the health of their citizens. National health policies were defined by nations. Primary health services were made accessible and affordable. Potable water supply was improved. Proper planned vaccination sessions helped a lot. School health program helped in identifying illnesses early in children. Antenatal clinics ensured better maternal and child health. Attempts were made to end tuberculosis. Malarial and dengue deaths came down. Longevity of life improved. IMR,MMR,CMR,NMR all came down , indicating the success of the WHO thrust to achieve health for all by 2000. But did the WHO succeed. No, it did only partly, that was because the policies, implementation and cooperation needed was flawed.
Two decades after having missed the target now again the theme for World health day- 2023 is “Health for all”. Did we fail, why? . Answers are needed so that we do not falter again.
So 23 years after we missed the target , the sad realization of failure is upon us. What was the reason that the declaration of Alma Mata of 1979 failed. Some say it was because the western nations didn’t do much, but why???. Reasons put forward are being a Russian initiative, it was termed communist and hence the non communist western world never tried hard enough to achieve the goals. The poorer nations never got the adequate technical support that was promised and should have been provided. Also financial support was absolutely insufficient. So here we are 44 years after 1979 with the same idea, theme and promise….Health for all.
What lesson should developing, underdeveloped or newly emerging developed nations like us , India learn from this. We should take the theme “health for all” seriously but create our own path of implementation. WHO should not be dictating to us. We should fine tune our national health policy as we feel it is right, not as what the west feels is right. The recent handling of the covid pandemic has proved beyond doubt our capabilities. Increase in the health budgets, better equipped government hospitals, no violence against the medical fraternity, handsome remuneration for doctors, tax incentives for the medical and health sector, no political meddling in medical affairs , accepting and learning from past mistakes, put the brakes on NCDs , stop aping and following the west , will definitely help us achieve this goal. We , India should be leading the world today in every aspect of public health if the WHO does not want to repeat the same theme 44 years later.
Yes, India today has the world’s highest and youngest population with excellent brains, the willingness to innovate , the system to disseminate knowledge and implement the best health policies, India can lead the way to Health for all…..India should lead the way
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