Editorial comment – Our health, our business

Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete. Picture: BALJEET SINGH/FILE

IT’S good to know that the health status of Pacific people has improved over the past 20 years.

However, Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said the progress has been slower compared with other parts of the world.

Opening the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) regional meeting in Nadi on Monday, he said there was a risk that the Pacific might have fallen behind in developing its health sector.

The unifying theme of the Healthy Islands vision, he said, was quite relevant to our challenges today as it cuts across many sectors and stakeholders as we try “to attain universal health coverage (UHC) for all”.

UHC, he said, was defined as a means of organising, delivering and financing health services “in such a way that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them”.

It is intended to build an efficient and resilient health system, creating an affordable care and a system of financing healthcare “that doesn’t impoverish users, and transparency in tracking progress and achieving equity”.

The regional meeting included member countries from 22 Pacific Island nations.

The Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network is a voluntary network of countries and organisations dedicated to the promotion of public health surveillance and appropriate response to the health challenges of member countries and territories.

It was created in 1996 under the joint auspices of the Pacific Community, the World Health Organization.

We learn that the primal focus of PPHSN was communicable diseases, especially those prone to outbreaks such as dengue fever.

It includes six support services to prevent and respond to outbreaks.

Any discussion on the status of our health should be welcomed.

They offer us a glimpse of where we are at right now, and obviously steps to take to improve.

For starters though, it is good to know that the health status of Pacific people has improved over the past 20 years.

In the face of the force that is non-communicable diseases, aided by a great change in our lifestyles, this actually goes against the grain, so to speak.

It means, perhaps, something is being done right.

Aside from improvement in health facilities, one wonders whether awareness campaigns are finally getting through to the masses.

Or is it that people are just getting more health conscious?

However, as the good minister said, the progress has been slower compared with other parts of the world.

Now that is a challenge for us all.

We need to start with a change in mindset.

That begins at home.

Then there are factors around us that the powers that be may have to address, to allow as many people as possible to effectively embrace this change.

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