WHD: CRS is curbing Disparities in Healthcare Service Delivery through Entrenchment of UHC
By Kingsley Agim
April 7 of every year is commemorated globally as the World Health Day, with this year’s event themed “Together for a fairer, healthier world”. On this occasion, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for urgent action to eliminate health inequities and mobilize action to attain better health for all and leave no one behind.
Disparities and inequities have always existed. Despite relative improvements in health outcomes globally, these gains have not been shared equally across different countries, especially in our communities in Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has had grave consequences for people already experiencing inequities. The pandemic has had a disproportionate knock on those people already socially, economically, or geographically disadvantaged, and evidence shows a worsening trend of disparities and inequity across the African Region.
Health is a fundamental human right. Every person deserves to live a healthy life regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, disability, economic situation or employment. Progress in tackling health disparities has been slow worldwide.
In Nigeria, Cross River State is leading the fight against disparities and inequities in health care service delivery. The present administration’s political will towards access to quality and affordable health care for all has been unparallel.
The Governor Ben Ayade-led government’s high premium placed on the health and wellness of the citizenry is evident in its pro-health policies, ably executed by a competent health team, led by Dr. Betta Edu. The proactive management of the covid-19 pandemic in the State, where Cross River ranks among the least in terms of prevalence of the virus, has drawn glowing applause from health stakeholders and opinion leaders within and outside the State, with the latest plaudits coming from His Eminence, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, the Obong of Calabar and Treaty King of the Efik Kingdom.
The availability of the AstraZeneca Vaccine to the State, for a few weeks now, plunged the health team on a voyage of vaccination of frontline workers and strategic leaders against the deadly corona virus in the State. The first phase of the vaccination exercise saw over 20, 000 residents vaccinated in Cross River State. The aggressive enlightenment campaigns by the health sector and other relevant organizations contributed immensely to the improvement of personal hygiene and adherence to covid-19 safety measures.
Aligning with the theme of the 2021 World Health Day: “Together for a fairer, healthier world,” it is worthy to note that Cross River State is leading the resolve towards equity and fairness in accessibility of affordable and quality health care services for all.
Since the decentralization of Health Insurance to States of the Federation to run, Cross River has been a leading light in her quest for affordable, accessible and quality health care service delivery for her citizenry, more recently, through the State Health Insurance Scheme. Flagged-off on 9th March, 2021 by Governor Ben Ayade and duly backed by Act 2016 of the Law of the State, the Scheme has partnered the United State Agency for International Development (USAID), through Health Finance Governance Project in setting up the governance architecture as well as its operational guidelines ahead of full implementation of the Scheme in the State.
The affirmation and subsequent flag-off of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) and enrolment into the Health Insurance Scheme by governor Ayade on Tuesday, 9th of March, 2021, signaled the actual birthing of Universal Health Coverage and highlights the high premium Cross River State Government places in the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
The State Government has collaborated with international partners to provide drones that will make for effective delivery of medical materials at the rural areas, given the State’s unique, but difficult terrains.
The Scheme, which boasts the most robust package in the country, will cater for ailments such as caesarean sections for pregnant women, tuberculosis, leprosy, cancer (to an extent) and all other basic ailments, with an enrollees expected to pay a monthly fee of one thousand naira (N1, 000.00), amounting to twelve thousand nairas (N12, 000.00) per annum. The Scheme has also made capturing of the poorest and vulnerable populations its prime target, combing the nooks and crannies of the State in search and registration of such population.
The benefits of implementing the Health Insurance Scheme includes three aspects, namely: provision for the pooling of resources for cross-subsidization of health costs where those in the high-income bracket subsidize those in the low-income bracket; the healthy subsidize the sick and the young subsidize the old; the burden of funding healthcare services is shared between government and enrollees. Catastrophic out-of-pocket expenditure will become a thing of the past for enrollees.
The unwavering commitment and capacity of the State Ministry of Health and other competent stakeholders under the health cluster like Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Cross River State Health Insurance Agency provides dependable alliances towards the effective utilization of the ‘well conceptualized’ Health Insurance Scheme, heralding a major health revolution as the State surges towards achieving Universal Health Coverage for her citizens.
As Cross Riverians and residents of the State bask in the euphoria of this landmark achievement, may I use the event of the World Health Day to implore all residents of the State to support/enrol with the Health Insurance Scheme, as I conclude with the words of Jan Schakowsky, an American politician, which says: “Without health insurance, getting sick or injured could mean going bankrupt, going without needed care, or even dying needlessly.”