Palliative care and Universal Health Coverage: how to advocate for the inclusion of palliative care in UHC

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Emily Tello, a 18 years old first-year medical student in Universidad Latina of Panama. She is a member of IFMSA, Panama. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

People shouldn´t go bankrupt just because they got sick. It`s like being punished for being human. Ironic, since the Hippocratic oath is all about living an exemplary personal and professional life, but how “exemplary” is it to deny health just because the person cannot afford it? Here`s why the inclusion of palliative care in health coverage is imperative, especially nowadays.

One of the benefits of Health coverage includes protection from any financial risk so that people can access the health care service they need without any problem. In addition, palliative care is known for improving the quality of life of those living and dying from life-limiting conditions with a correct assessment and treatment of pain, apart from that, it also helps patients understand their choices for medical treatment. However, according to the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance: “It is estimated that only 20 countries globally have palliative care integrated into the mainstream health system, 42% of countries have no known hospice and palliative care services at all” and even when people do agree to pay for this treatment, there aren´t enough supplies or medical staff trained for this. The first step to abroad this problem is through education. There are a lot of people that don´t know what even palliative care is until someone close to them needs this type of treatment and is not able to pay for it. For this reason, medical schools should teach about palliative care from the beginning, so that future doctors learn about the importance and the impact that this inclusion could cause in the life of all those patients that will benefit from it.

Furthermore, the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day take place on the second Saturday of October every year, but in my opinion, this day is forgotten by a lot of people. That is why people that do know about it and foundations, must use social media to raise their voices, visions, and awareness so that each country can prioritize palliative care services, and also to get more volunteers to raise funds to support and develop hospice and palliative care services around the world.

According to the World Health Organization: “78% of people in need of palliative care live in low- and middle- income countries”. This situation has just aggravated with COVID-19, where most of these people have to decide between going to the hospital and risk themselves or stay at home “safely” but in pain, since they cannot afford to have someone going to their home to treat them. Because of this, the last and most important step to abroad this problem is that every government must follow the development of palliative care policies by the United Nations that is planned for 2030 under the motto “Leave no one behind”, in which adding the word “suffering” on it, makes it a call to include palliative care in UHC as soon as possible.

About the author

Emily Tello is an 18 years old first-year medical student in Universidad Latina of Panama. She is a member of IFMSA, Panama. She loves writing and playing chess and is very interested on public health. After graduating from college, she aspires to create or be part of a network of doctors that aims to diagnose mystery diseases so that she could write about this on important newspapers. Her purpose in life is to be at the service of the community and the people in need.

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