UN calls for end in healthcare discrimination

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

United Nations entities have called for a central principle that will ensure Sustainable Development Goals in healthcare matters. This is in regard to the 2030 Agenda that recognizes discrimination in health care settings which is a major barrier to the achievement of the SDGs.

A joint UN statement indicates that discrimination in health care settings is widespread across the world and takes many forms, violating the most fundamental human rights protected by the international treaties and laws.

According to the statement, health care discrimination is directed towards some of the most marginalized and stigmatized populations.

“Many individuals and groups face discrimination on the basis of their age, sex, race or ethnicity, health status, disability or vulnerability to ill health, sexual orientation or gender identity,” says the statement.

It further states that discrimination in health is also based on nationality, asylum or migration status, criminal record often experiencing intersecting or compounding forms of discrimination.

The statement puts emphasis on effects highlighting that discrimination affects both users of health care services and health care workers reinforcing exclusion from society for both individuals and groups.

Advocating for global healthcare, the World Health Organization is present to handle gender-based discrimination within largely female health workforce as evidenced by physical and sexual violence.

The signatory United Nations entities have called upon all stakeholders to join hands in committing to take action against health care discrimination through coordination.

National laws, policies and practices will also foster and perpetuate discrimination in health care settings, prohibiting or discouraging people from seeking the broad range of health care services they may need.

Addressing discrimination in health care settings will contribute to the achievement of many of the SDGs, ensuring that no one is left behind.

It is fundamental to securing progress towards SDG 3, Good health and well-being, including achieving universal health coverage and ending the AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics; SDG 4, Quality education; SDG 5, Gender equality and women’s empowerment; SDG 8, Decent work and inclusive economic growth; SDG 10, Reduced inequalities; and SDG 16, Peace, justice and strong institutions.

States have an immediate legal obligation to address discrimination. While States bear this primary duty especially Kenya, a multistakeholder and multisectoral response, including a coordinated effort from the United Nations system, is urgently required.

Reviewing, strengthening, implementing and monitoring health professional policies, regulations, standards, working conditions and ethics, for the prohibition of discrimination on all grounds is in connection to health care settings.

States, therefore, ought to uphold empowering users of health care services so that they are aware of and able to demand their rights. This will enable them to hold those responsible accountable for discrimination-free health care settings through rights literacy, patient charters, social accountability monitoring, community support, and other tools.