Universal access to palliative care must be an urgent priority to meet the new global goal on health and well-being
The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) calls for palliative care to be addressed as an urgent priority to meet the new adopted sustainable development goal (SDG) 3: ‘Good Health and Well-being: to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.
The WHPCA welcomes the adoption of this new global goal on health. Palliative care is a vital component of the basic and essential services within Universal Health Coverage as defined by the World Health Organisation. As such, universal access to palliative care is a fundamental requirement to achieve this global goal for those facing serious illness and potentially the end of life. The SDGs provide a vital opportunity for the world to address one of the most tragic and unnecessary forms of health inequality and one of the greatest missed opportunities of our times – to treat avoidable and unnecessary pain and suffering.
At least 20 million people need hospice and palliative care at the end of life each year and at least that many more through the course of their illness. However, shockingly 18 million people worldwide die in unnecessary pain and distress, also affecting the health and well-being of their family members and carers. With aging populations and rises in the incidence of non-communicable diseases across the world, these figures are only increasing and yet the response is not only not keeping pace, but lagging.
The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance welcomes the targets on Universal Health Coverage and Non-Communicable Diseases. However, we encourage key stakeholders worldwide to ensure that palliative care is included as an essential component of the basic package of care. Palliative care must be included in Universal Health Coverage and Non-Communicable Diseases national plans and programmes, budgeted for, monitored and implemented. If it is not, the current global tragedy of avoidable pain and distress towards the end of lives on a huge scale will continue.
Liz Gwyther, chair of the WHPCA, said “People should live as healthy lives as possible right through to the end of life without suffering avoidable pain and distress. Palliative care helps achieve this; the goals of palliative care being best possible quality of life and active living until death. Contrary to long standing myths, this is not the luxurious pinnacle of the health response but the absolute basic and minimum that anyone should expect. Despite the cost-effectiveness of palliative care and the strong evidence that palliative care improves well-being and alleviates suffering, it remains neglected in the health response and largely focussed in high income countries. These stark inequalities must be addressed as a priority. The SDGs provide a great opportunity for us all to tackle this.”