Government has given its strongest hint yet that it will continue to support some form of universal health coverage despite growing concerns about the future funding of the country’s health services.
Minister of Health John Boyce today gave the assurance that Government “supports the ethos” of universal coverage, which has been the foundation of the country’s health system since independence.
However, he stopped short of indicating how much of the cost the administration was willing to cover.
“The Government of Barbados supports the ethos of universal health coverage and the Ministry of Health has done all possible to maintain the health of the Barbadian population with the understanding that health is a fundamental development issue for country growth stability,” Boyce said at the launch of a healthy lifestyle programme initiated by St Michael School.
“Barbados’ health system since independence has been pursuit of the goal of universal access to health care for all citizens and permanent residents, within the economic resource constraints of the country. Barbados has performed creditably as it relates to the comprehensiveness of health services, population coverage and accessibility.”
The rising cost of health care – which stood at $732.\ million in 2013 – has increasingly become a subject of discussion and the Ministry of Health has launched a series of town hall meetings on how “to finance health care and generally reform and strengthen the system of our sustainable universal health coverage,” according to the minister.
Acknowledging that a healthy population was key to achieving wide-ranging and sustainable economic growth, Boyce said Government was playing its part and would continue to take responsibility to support citizens “at the macro-economic level, in their pursuit of a healthy life”.
Boyce said a model of publicly funded health care had been utilized over the years as a strategy for developing the country’s human capital, which resulted in a number of indicators of well-being.
These, he said, included a high average life expectancy of 77 years, good maternal and child survival rates, declining prevalence of infectious diseases, access to essential medicines and attendance of a trained midwife and physicians at each delivery.
The minister pointed out that over the past three decades the incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases including cancer, hypertension, heart diseases and diabetes had been rising and in turn placed “a significant economic burden” on the country.
He said while Government had implemented a number of initiatives aimed at promoting healthy living it would continue, along with stakeholders, to “create communities, schools, workplaces and markets” that make healthy choices possible.
The St Michael School Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust (NEW START) programme promotes tenets of a healthy lifestyle.
It is aimed at encouraging students to take greater responsibility for their health.