The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn out the stark social and economic inequalities that many of us face across the world. From accessing health services to employment discrimination and gender inequality, our life circumstances can cause unnecessary suffering, through no fault of our own. This World Health Day on 7 April 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching a new campaign to build a fairer, healthier world. Read on to find out how you can be a part of it.
Some people have it all. Some people have nothing at all. The world we live in has always been an unequal place. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, it only drew attention to the stark social and economic inequalities that communities across the world face. From gender discrimination to poor housing conditions, to employment insecurity, life circumstances outside of individual control have only worsened with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The inequalities of health outcomes and unequal access to healthcare and health services globally have never been more obvious.
But this doesn’t have to be the case.
This year, for World Health Day 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching a new campaign, ‘Building a Fairer, Healthier World,’ to call for leaders and communities to take action to get rid of health inequities and ensure that everyone has access healthcare whenever and wherever they need.
A Brief History of World Health Day
World Health Day was created by the WHO at its first-ever World Health Assembly in 1948. With effect from 1950, World Health Day has fallen on April 7th of every year. Not only does it commemorate the founding date of the WHO’s constitution, World Health Day seeks to draw global attention to a specific health theme each year to highlight a high priority concern in global health for the WHO. Long-term advocacy promoting the year’s specific theme is undertaken by the WHO, with resources being provided. To kick off the campaign, events related to the year’s theme are also organised on the international, regional and local scale, on the day itself. Previous World Health Day themes in the past have included Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Universal Health Coverage, and Depression: Let’s Talk.
Importance of World Health Day
So why is World Health Day important?
As one of 11 global health campaigns officially mandated by the WHO, World Health Day enjoys global recognition and support from all 194 of its member states. It is also supported by governmental agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the world that are invested in public health issues. By drawing the world together, World Health Day promotes and allows for coordinated public health responses and advocacy internationally towards each year’s spotlighted global public health issue.
World Health Day 2021: Building a Fairer, Healthier World for Everyone
What does it mean to build a fairer, healthier world?
In the lead up to World Health Day 2021 on 7th April, the WHO has prepared several calls-to-action for leaders across the world:
- Work Together
- Collect Reliable Data
- Tackle Inequities
- Act Beyond Borders
Governments and organisations should work together with affected communities and individuals to tackle the underlying causes of inequities and to implement appropriate solutions across different sectors of society. Solutions that adopt an integrated coordinated approach, with governments and communities working together, will have the greatest impact.
In Singapore, for instance, the immense threat of COVID-19 to the vulnerable migrant worker community over the height of the pandemic in 2019 was successfully mitigated through the combined efforts of the government and migrant worker-focused NGOs.
Collect Reliable Data
Governments need to collect reliable data organised and analysed according to necessary differentiations relevant to the national context, such as income, age, education, or gender. This makes it possible to track inequities across subpopulations and marginalised communities and to take targeted action for the greatest impact.
Governments also need to adopt a whole-of-government approach to tackle inequities at their root causes and increase investment in primary healthcare. This is essential to ensuring healthcare is accessible and available to all and to build up resilience in healthcare systems.
Act Beyond Borders
To truly make healthcare accessible and available to all, governments should also act beyond borders in tackling public health problems together. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated this need more than ever. It is heartening to see nations and countries coming together to ensure an equitable supply of vaccines, tests and treatments, with international initiatives like COVAX-19 and regional ones like the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund showing cross-border solidarity.
How Homage is Building a Fairer, Healthier World for Everyone
Here at Homage, we firmly believe in building a fairer, healthier world. Whether it’s a teleconsultation, a doctor house call, or a personal care session, our full list of services is committed to making healthcare affordable and accessible for all.
No matter the medical situation, Homage makes primary healthcare easy to reach with a few taps of your fingertips. Simply download our in-house Homage app and you can start requesting care for yourself and your loved ones anytime, anywhere. Online doctor consultations on our Homage app start from $20/session, making it much more affordable than a typical physical trip to your neighbourhood GP clinic. Our Homage care advisors and specialists are also always available to help you assess and decide on the most appropriate treatment plans.
Other than making holistic healthcare affordable and accessible to care recipients, Homage also offers an improved alternative work model for healthcare care providers and professionals. Homage frees healthcare professionals from being tied to traditional healthcare institutions like hospitals or polyclinics. Instead, Homage care professionals enjoy a flexible work arrangement and are able to accept job offers according to their own schedules, avoiding the shackles of a typical 9-5 workday. In this way, Homage empowers healthcare professionals looking to rejoin the workforce through employment in their own time and target, without being restrained by their personal commitments.
Whether you are in need of care or are providing care, Homage ensures that your needs are expedited by matching care recipients and healthcare providers directly. With our services, Homage has contributed to the further democratisation of Singapore’s primary healthcare system.
Steps You Can Take This World Health Day
What can we do as individuals to build a fairer, healthier world for everyone?
Here in Singapore, healthcare inequalities and inequities will seem unfamiliar or invisible for many of us who are privileged enough to enjoy affordable and accessible healthcare. That, however, does not mean healthcare inequality is non-existent in Singapore. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, vulnerable groups and communities in Singapore, such as the migrant worker community, low-income groups, and many others still face challenges in accessing affordable primary healthcare.
This World Health Day, it is only right that we look beyond the bubble of our lives and start actively thinking and caring about our communities and those around us. Here are some steps you can take towards building a fairer, healthier world right here, right now, in Singapore:
- Pay Attention
It may sound deceptively simple, but you’d be surprised to realise how difficult it can be to truly pay attention to those around us. Asking for help can sometimes be seen as a source of shame, making us reluctant to ask for help when we really need it. It is therefore important to pay attention and take the initiative to reach out to those around us, starting with our closest circles and communities, understand their needs, and see if you can offer help.
Be curious and ask questions respectfully. What kind of barriers are preventing people in your lives from getting access or affording healthcare? Are there ways that you can help within your capacity? For instance, if your neighbour needs help evaluating and applying for social support or medical subsidies schemes, would you be able to spend some time sharing useful financial guides and helping them through the process?
Sometimes, even if you do not have the capacity to help, simply offering a listening ear, and holding space for others can already be an effective way of extending solidarity and support to those around you.
Finding solutions to problems can be a daunting task when undertaken alone. It is therefore important to start organising and rallying those around you and your community to come together to pool available resources and capacities collectively to help mitigate problems that your community is facing.
Community initiatives organised in the spirit of mutual aid, or the voluntary, reciprocal exchange of resources between people, are a great way to start addressing the inequities of healthcare around your community on an individual level.
As of now, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the formation of many island-wide mutual aid initiatives around the island such as the Wares Mutual Aid Spreadsheet that help match groups or individuals with needs and offers of support in the community.
You can take part in these existing mutual aid initiatives, or better yet, organise one for your community. From the workplace, school, to your neighbourhood, mutual aid initiatives can be organised and used to rally those around you to start extending mutual support to each other. Keep in mind that when it comes to making a big impact, big isn’t always better. So feel free to start small and work your way up to addressing the structural problems affecting your community.
Beyond community initiatives, however, healthcare inequalities and inequities are often the result of existing structural issues that need to be resolved. It may ultimately be more effective to resolve them through political action and will. One way of achieving this is to write in to your Member of Parliament to highlight issues of inaccessibility and inequity in your community. It can be a personal note, or if you have the capacity, a petition. This is one of the most direct ways in which you can make your voice heard as a citizen in Singapore and push for changes that matter. Are there subsidy schemes that you feel aren’t providing enough coverage? Or are the application processes too laborious and lengthy for those in need of support? These are all issues that you can surface to your political representative for change to happen on the policy level.
World Health Day 2021 may be a great start for you to start thinking about inequity and inequality, but it shouldn’t be the end. Start paying attention, organising, and writing in to build a fairer, healthier world.
- World Health Organisation, World Health Day 2021 [Webpage]. Retrieved 24 March, from https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2021
- World Health Organisation, Previous World Health Days [Webpage]. Retrieved 24 March, from https://www.who.int/world-health-day/archives/en/
- Ang, Hwee Min, (2020, Sep) IN FOCUS: The long, challenging journey to bring COVID-19 under control in migrant worker dormitories Channel News Asia [Newspaper Article]. Retrieved 24 March, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/in-focus-covid19-singapore-migrant-worker-dormitories-lockdown-13081210
- Neo, Yi Chong, (2020, May) Isaac Overcoming the challenges of organising community aid in a crisis, Today [Newspaper Article]. Retrieved 24 March, from https://www.todayonline.com/commentary/overcoming-challenges-organising-community-aid-Covid-19-crisis