During the 2019 World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Global Health Council provided several patient champions with the opportunity to share their stories, and contribute to discussions around universal health coverage (UHC). Following the Assembly, we sat down with each patient champion to get their thoughts on WHA. Hear from our patient champion Bruno Carrattini on his experience with NCDs, and why youth are essential to achieving UHC.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Bruno Carrattini. I am from Uruguay and I have been living with Type 1 Diabetes for 13 years now. Being diagnosed in my adolescence with a non-communicable disease (NCD) such as diabetes has changed my life completely. It has generated in me an urgent need to help others suffering from the same health condition, especially the most vulnerable, and since then I have been a volunteer. Currently, I work for a patient association called the Uruguayan Diabetes Association.
Describe one of your favorite events or one-on-one conversations during the World Health Assembly (WHA), and why?
One of my favorite events during WHA was the UHC town hall event where I was able to share the voice of the community I represent and the real needs that arise in civil society related to access to health. It was my favorite event since a work process was created in which participants had the opportunity to not just be listeners, but to also participate in a multi-participative workshop to highlight what key aspects are needed to find solutions to the difficulties in the communities. They were also able to highlight what civil society mechanisms are most effective in relation to UHC. One of the key conclusions reached was the call to action regarding the inclusion of civil society in the decision-making processes, especially by the people affected. I found that very satisfactory and promising to achieving sustainable development.
We know this was your first time at WHA. Did anything surprise you?
I have previously been in events like the World Health Organization’s Global Dialogue, and the United Nation’s Youth Forum where you also have many meetings simultaneously and many documents as well. I think what most surprised me, in a good way, about WHA was the attitude of listening and the general interest of all the participants in all of the topics that were worked on. Particularly, the general interest shown for gender equality and access to quality health coverage, which are essential components to achieve the health agenda.
What were some of the main recommendations or insights that you provided on panels or discussions?
My recommendations in the discussions had to do with access to quality treatments, the inclusion of youth as a priority in decision making, and work with stakeholders to achieve the objectives as an organized civil society. In the panel on UHC where I was a speaker, I spoke about strategies at the local level to achieve real access to health care for people affected by NCDs, including gender equality and youth. One of them was (because in Uruguay is in a period of national elections) meeting as an organization with political candidates for president of the republic, and making them commit on the record to the cause we defend: access to quality treatments. Time cannot be a variable that conditions us, we need it now! Without leaving anyone behind! Another aspect that I mentioned was that while everyone was arguing in the room, millions of people in the world are being amputated, becoming blind, suffering miscarriages, being discriminated against, losing their jobs, losing their kidneys, and losing their dignity and their rights just because they have diabetes. Accelerate the process and strengthen the prevention of NCDs and its complications.
(One question I asked in the NCDs event to the panel was “how can NCD health policies ensure access [to care], and be cross-national at the local level regardless of the government in office?” It still did not get an answer.)
How do you plan to continue or relay these global conversations back home?
One of the most frequent questions that I have been asked in the organization that I represent at the national level is “how do we proceed now?”
Through the implementation of strategies learned and documented. As civil society we must use these roadmaps to achieve the aforementioned objectives:
- Access to quality health coverage through alliances with stakeholders.
- Use of social networks to create awareness and hold candidates for president accountable in their commitments around NCDs.
- The inclusion of young people and support for their projects at the local level. This requires funding, and has been a sensitive issue, since the response of global organizations gave me was that they are not willing to finance youth projects (particularly those we are carrying out at the local level and that are in need economic support).
I had a meeting after I returned from the Assembly with the National Youth Director of Uruguay, sharing what was discussed in the events that I participated in, and I requested their support for a group of young leaders that I trained who have a project to educate young people with diabetes living in the poor health conditions of public hospitals. It was very helpful to be able to attend WHA because I have been informed about the state commitments and my ability to represent the community left a big mark. His response was that because there is an elections period at the national level, financial support is compromised but we had his interest on behalf of the institution. Hopefully some organization, from any sector, can help us accomplish these projects which are directly related to access, prevention, and UHC for vulnerable people.
What are your top takeaways from the week?
- UHC is not the same as access to quality health coverage: do not leave anyone behind because of their socioeconomic situation, health is not a benefit, it is a right.
- Gender equality is key to achieving UHC, not only do NCDs affect more women, but more than half of health workers are women, and should be at the center in the implementation of health policies.
- The objective of Sustainable Development Goal 3 is not about surviving anymore: it’s about living healthy lives, not based only on mortality rates, but also on morbidity and quality of life. People are much more than their diseases: before being a statistic, they are human beings. Let’s ensure that everyone has equality, equity and access to a healthy life.
- No matter how many statements are established about the foundations of inclusion and access to UHC, it is necessary to discuss two fundamental elements which are often impediments to achieving action: political will and financing. These should be at the head of the order of topics to be discussed