The challenge of palliative care in universal health coverage

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This article was written by Ms. Maria Luisa Colpini Meurer and Mr. Mateus Henrique Aderaldo Amichi. Maria L. C. Meurer is a 3rd year medical student and a member of IFMSA Brazil. They are 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 writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The model of medicine currently practiced is still focused on treatment and not on prevention. Thus, in this model, palliative care is usually left out, although currently we have a notable growth in the theme of palliative care together with medicine focused in patient care and not in the comorbidity itself. In this way, the patient is evaluated physically, psychologically and emotionally, so that he has comfort and dignity in this difficult time that he is going through. Each patient has to be treated in a unique way, since his needs and characteristics are specifics.

            From this perspective, Universal Health Coverage would have to start to see that palliative care is a branch of medicine that is expanding both in researches in the area and in the number of active professionals. Therefore, measures are needed to include it in the Universal Health Coverage. The transition will not be easy and it will take time, since Universal Health Coverage is already saturated with treating and curing, however, it is essential to include palliative care as it aims to practice the comprehensive care with a fatal comorbidity, bringing a better quality of life to the patient.

            One way to include palliative care in Universal Health Coverage would be showing to the population that health is not only the culture of the disease care, but disease prevention. If everyone adhered to this, preventing disease, there would be enough monetary funds for this inclusion. It is a hard work, but effective. Prevention always comes first in the initial control of emerging diseases.

            Thus, as palliative care is an integrated model, formed by several health professionals (nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists), it is essential that it is included as part of the Universal Health Coverage. Palliative care aims to the patient as unique in care, ensuring equity during treatment. According to the World Health Organization, Universal Health Coverage means that all patients have access to health services without financial difficulties. This applies to palliative care because patients need care because they are experiencing a fatal comorbidity.

            Ensuring patient care and bringing health quality is the model that current medicine must follow. Assuring the patient that he will be treated, regardless of the costs and what comorbidity he is experiencing is crucial for Universal Health Coverage to be fulfilled. Palliative care is a form of end-of-life care, guaranteeing that the patient has comfort. Behind this, a qualified multiprofessional team is required for this to be accomplished.

About the author

This article was written by Maria Luisa Colpini Meurer and Mateus Henrique Aderaldo Amichi. Maria L. C. Meurer is a 3rd year medical student and a member of IFMSA Brazil. She is interested in human rights and medicine and her hobbies include reading and participating in extension activities from her university. Mateus H. A. Amichi is a 3rd year medical student from Brazil; he is a participant in the Academic Leagues of Integrative Medicine, Family and Community Medicine and Clinical Anatomy.

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