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IAPB Africa Editorial: Making progress towards Universal Health Coverage

WHO has unveiled a landmark reform that targets primary care for billions of people. This “back-to-basics” targets one billion people in support of WHO’s top priority, Universal Health Coverage(UHC).  At the same time, a Resolution on Community Health Workers is to be considered at the upcoming World Health Assembly to accelerate progress on UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) health targets, recognizing the importance of community health workers as part of a diverse and sustainable health workforce skills mix.  “Promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative services and palliative care must be accessible to all – We can no longer underemphasize the crucial importance of health promotion and disease prevention, nor tolerate fragmented, unsafe or poor-quality care. We must address the shortage and uneven distribution of health workers”.

Meanwhile, Africa continues the march towards UHC ahead of the UN High-Level Meeting on UHC in September with Jean Kagubare, deputy director of Global Primary Health Care Systems at the Gates Foundation, stating “there is no better return on investment than strengthening primary health care.”

Closer to home, in eye health, the integration of an eye health component into primary health care (more commonly PEC into PHC) took a major step forward in March when WHO AFRO and IAPB Africa jointly launched the new Primary Eye Care Training Manual at a key event in Ghana. With 16 Anglophone countries represented, along with the IAPB team and many member agencies, the launch took forward the PEC agenda following the publication of WHO AFRO’s PEC Training Manual towards the end of last year.  The expectation now is that individual countries will build on this momentum and alignment and implement the recommendations of WHO and IAPB, moving PEC forward as part and parcel of the broader switch to primary health care in pursuit of Universal eye Health Coverage (UeHC).

Finally, in February, IAPB Africa held its annual planning meeting in Accra where the secretariat, members and partner organizations developed a draft implementation plan to tackle key issues facing eye health in Africa.  The plan will outline the roles to be undertaken by both the secretariat and members during the period 2019-2021.

Image: Two eye health workers are taking the visual acuity of two patients at the same time/ Image Credit: Francisco Sanz for #MakeVisionCount