What you need to know:
- Health systems should be designed to meet people’s needs while safeguarding their dignity to ensure responsiveness
- The responsibility to improve health ought to be shared with the patient and their families
People-centred health services are critical to improving patient safety and quality of care.
Putting people and communities, not diseases, at the centre of health systems enhances effectiveness, builds trust and promotes health-seeking behaviour.
Health systems should be designed to meet people’s needs while safeguarding their dignity to ensure responsiveness.
The provision of basic amenities, social support, prompt attention, autonomy, confidentiality, and a right to choose healthcare providers indicate how well a health system addresses patients’ legitimate needs.
The Quality Healthcare Kenyan Awards, which takes a health system strengthening approach to improve service delivery standards, advocates quality, people-centred care. When people have positive experiences with the health system, the outcomes are better and sustainable.
Therefore, healthcare providers should treat people with empathy and compassion while seeking to understand their individual needs, priorities, preferences and cultural backgrounds.
The responsibility to improve health ought to be shared with the patient and their families through partnership, where each party’s views are respected, and all concerns addressed equally to ensure patients make informed decisions.
The Covid-19 pandemic is, without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges in our lifetime. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the values that we build into our health systems.
The pandemic has taught us that healthcare cannot be addressed as an isolated sector but should instead be observed holistically, bringing in gender, education, finance and infrastructure.
Stigma and discrimination
In building back better after Covid-19, health inequity and gender inequalities can only be eliminated if we successfully address the core determinants of health.
From the healthcare provider’s level to the policymaker, the system cannot ignore the social, cultural, economic factors and gender norms that hinder quality, people-centred care.
In maternal and reproductive health, this includes experiences with stigma, discrimination and disrespectful care and physical or sexual abuse that, in turn, likely leads to poorer health-seeking behaviour among women.
UNFPA acknowledges the health system’s stretch largely attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and invests available resources to ensure continuity of quality sexual reproductive health services to all, including in humanitarian settings. It advocates woman-centred care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.
This is our chance to build a stronger, more resilient health system that puts every person, including those with disability, first.
Improved access and coverage will mean less if quality without ‘caring’ is not embedded in the interventions.