April 2021

Building a fairer, healthier world – where nobody is left outside

Today we celebrate World Health Day 2021, with its motto “Building a fairer, healthier world“, during an ongoing global pandemic.

COVID-19 has severely impacted the health, lives and livelihoods of many millions of people worldwide. Marginalised groups such as people experiencing homelessness, undocumented migrants, sex workers, people who use drugs, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and prisoners are among those hardest hit by the pandemic and yet are among the least protected.

The problems are not new, or specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aforementioned marginalised communities already faced difficulties accessing healthcare, social care and support services well before the pandemic, as did others subject to racism and other forms of systemic discrimination. And yet, while the problems were clear, there has been limited, effective action to address them.

COVID-19 has emphasised that nobody is safe until everybody is safe. In order to protect our societies from this and future pandemics, and to deliver better health for all, healthcare must once and for all be truly and equitably accessible to everybody.

The recent Call to Action of the Pan European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development, convened by Dr Hans Kluge (WHO Regional Director for Europe) and chaired by Mario Monti, states that:

“We cannot achieve a sustainable future for health and development in Europe if we fail to address the conditions that allowed the COVID-19 pandemic to inflict unprecedented damage on lives and economies. We need to accept that the global system has failed.”

This Commission calls for action at all levels of society to fix the fractures that left so many people vulnerable to the pandemic. This includes:

  • Making health systems more inclusive, ensuring that everyone can participate in decision-making at all levels and access health and social services, and
  • Re-emphasizing the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving universal health coverage (UHC), which is key to ensuring societal cohesion, economic growth and sustainable societies.

The Nobody Left Outside (NLO) initiative welcomes and supports this Commission and its Call to Action. The recommendations reflect the core goals of NLO to address the social determinants of health and to achieve equitable access to health and social care, including underserved, marginalised communities – as expressed in our Joint Statement.

We call on EU and national policymakers to institute policies that protect everyone from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, future pandemics and other health threats based on the principles of evidence-based public health, human rights and equity, as further explained in the NLO COVID-19 briefing paper.

In 2021 we must build a fairer, healthier world – for good.