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April 7, 2024 is World Health Day

Across the nation and the world, not everyone has equal access to healthcare, healthy food, or safe drinking water. Without these basic needs being met, it can cause a lot of suffering for people who are forced by circumstances beyond their control to go without.

According to the World Health Organization:

The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has found that at least 140 countries recognize health as a human right in their constitution. Yet countries are not passing and putting into practice laws to ensure their populations are entitled to access health services. This underpins the fact that at least 4.5 billion people — more than half of the world’s population — were not fully covered by essential health services in 2021.
To address these types of challenges, the theme for World Health Day 2024 is 'My health, my right’.
This year’s theme was chosen to champion the right of everyone, everywhere to have access to quality health services, education, and information, as well as safe drinking water, clean air, good nutrition, quality housing, decent working and environmental conditions, and freedom from discrimination.

World Health Day is a great opportunity for all of us to shine a spotlight on issues of health inequality, so that we can all do our part to make the world a better place through achieving equal access to health resources for everyone worldwide.

This is a difficult goal, and one that takes a lot of work and effort to achieve on a world scale. Global organizations like the WHO can direct the work if they are able to receive adequate resources.

We can all start with raising awareness of the inequalities and issues that others are facing, and educating ourselves on current circumstances.

The United States has worse healthcare than other industrialized countries, and is the only ‘rich’ country without a universal healthcare system.

Here in the US, many people don't have access to healthcare due to barriers in getting insurance. Not all employers offer health insurance as a benefit, and not everyone can qualify for social programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Even those who do have insurance may not have enough to cover having a disease like cancer, or a long-term disability. Medical bills can get so out of hand sometimes that many people have to resort to starting a go-fund-me campaign just so they don't die. That shouldn't have to be a thing.

An article by The Atlantic on this topic says that:

GoFundMe itself acknowledges the reliance of patients on the company’s platform. Ari Romio, a spokesperson for the company, said that “medical expenses” is the most common category of fundraiser it hosts. But she declined to say what proportion of campaigns are medically related, because people starting a campaign self-select the purpose of the fundraiser. They might choose the family or travel category, she said, if a child needs to go to a different state for treatment, for example. So although the company has estimated in the past that a third of the funds raised on the site are medical-related, that could be an undercount.

It is truly sad that people are going into bankruptcy, collections, and having to rely on crowdfunding for healthcare. Being able to get medical care should be a basic right belonging to everyone. Having a for-profit healthcare system in the US is morally bankrupt, and shows just how out of control capitalism has gotten. Profits shouldn't come before people's lives. And yet they do.

Healthcare Worldwide

In developing countries around the world, there are additional problems such as lack of access to clean water, medicine, and proper sanitation. People die every day from preventable causes.

For example, many people lack access to clean water worldwide. According to World Vision:

  • 703 million people lack access to clean water. That’s 1 in 10 people on the planet.

  • Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours carrying water every day, walking 6 kilometers (about 3.7 miles) every day to haul 40 pounds of water.

  • More than 1,000 children under 5 die every day from diseases caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and unsafe hygiene practices.

  • 1.69 billion people live without access to adequate sanitation.

  • 419 million people practice open defecation.

  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) is universal access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.

It is horrifying to realize that people are dying all the time due to polluted drinking water. This is even an issue in the US, if you look at instances like Flint, Michigan. People count on their drinking water being safe. But as you can see, many times it isn't. This can lead to all sorts of long and short term health consequences.

If you want to get involved in improving health equity, you can get involved with local or world organizations that are engaged in the important work of creating a healthier world for everyone.

For example, UNICEF has the Every Child Healthy campaign that works worldwide to improve child health in a variety of ways.

Working to close gaps in health and health care will take community and legislative efforts. But just as important are conversations everyone can have each day to raise awareness, point out injustices and advocate for change.

Advocacy starts with personal awareness and education. Each of us can work to educate ourselves about inequalities in healthcare and healthy living across our cities, countries, and the world. Knowledge is power, they say. The more you know, the more you can help to educate others in turn, and to advocate for causes you believe in.

So today, in honor of World Health Day, I challenge you to start by reading a couple of articles about health equity. Share them on your socials if they resonate with you. Talk to friends and family members about what you have learned.

Once you have done that, you can even take it a step farther and donate to an organization that is doing important work around health equity. You can volunteer your time. Sign petitions in support of laws that support better healthcare. Vote for laws that stop vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.

It may not seem like one person can make a difference in such a big world. But the more we each do out part to become informed and involved, the more impact we can make every day!

Let me know what you think in the comments, and what issues you would like me to cover in the future! I always love hearing from you guys, and being able to connect with all of you, and learn from you as well.

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