Is Sri Lanka’s health system ready to respond to the population shift?

( December 12, 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)

Tomorrow marks International Universal Health Coverage (UHC)Day. Universal Health Coverage is a fundamental goal rooted in the human rightto health. It ensures that every person, no matter who they are or where theylive – has access to quality health services without suffering financialhardship. Achieving universal health coverage will accelerate efforts to endextreme poverty, achieve gender equality and increase health security, so thatno one is left behind.

Dr. Olivia Corazon Nieveras, Public Health Administrator, WHO Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, this means ensuring that the country’s health
system is ready to respond to current population shifts. It is predicted that
by 2030, 1 in 5 people in Sri Lanka will be above the age of 60 years. This
demographic transition makes Sri Lanka the most rapidly ageing population in
the South Asia region. An ageing population is a result of the country’s
continuous investments in making people live longer. However, it is important
to ensure that health systems are readily in place to support the needs of the
growing elderly population.

International Universal Health Coverage Day 2018, the World Health Organization
(WHO) together with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Sri
Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) convened a press conference in Colombo.

The President of Sri Lanka Medical Association, Dr. Ruvaiz
Haniffa said, “In the past we have been treating illness and disease, it has
only left us with a health system that is not people centered, it is hightime
we start changing the health system to one that is people oriented. We cannot
continue business as usual. We must include everyone,everywhere.

Dr. Olivia Corazon Nieveras, Public Health Administrator of
WHO Sri Lanka, said “Good health is a human right not a privilege. Health
systems need to focus on promoting health and not curing diseases;the goal
should be to live well and not just to live more. We need to transform health
systems from hospital centered and illness – based to people centered systems.
The first level of future health care should become increasingly closer to
where people live and work as our needs change across life stages, access to
health services should not. The country is in a good trajectory towards
Universal Health Coverage by investing in Primary Health Care reorganization
(PHC). PHC is the most effective and efficient way of achieving good health for
the population.”

Further, Ms. Madusha Dissanayake, Assistant Representative
of UNFPA Sri Lanka highlighted: “It is when youth make informed life decisions
now, that they can be economically empowered to age with dignity. Therefore,
universal access to sexual and reproductive health services for all, at all
ages, is absolutely necessary for Sri Lanka to be ready to face this
demographic shift. It allows people to age actively and healthily, which in
return will help the health system as well.”

To achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage by 2030,
all Sri Lankans should have access to the health care that they need without
being pushed into poverty or giving up other life necessities. Sri Lanka must
adopt a lifecycle approach to healthcare – one that starts early and continues
through the reproductive years and lasts into old age – to support the physical
and emotional well-being of older persons in Sri Lanka.

Every year, Universal Health Coverage Day reminds the world
that health for all is imperative for the world we want. When people are
healthy, families, communities and economies can reach their full potential. We
need collective action now, to build a strong, equitable health system in Sri


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