Re-imagining a fairer and healthier South-east Asia

The coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to live up to the ideals of World Health Day - though it might involve more taxes

People entering Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic in January. Providing more health and social services goes beyond strengthening ministries or health departments, the writer says, adding that governments must change the way taxes are collected and distributed,
People entering Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic in January. Providing more health and social services goes beyond strengthening ministries or health departments, the writer says, adding that governments must change the way taxes are collected and distributed, embed health in all policies, and empower the community to care for one another.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Every April 7 since 1950, World Health Day has been celebrated. Today's theme is "Building a fairer, healthier world" for 2021. As South-east Asian countries glimpse a vaccine-shaped light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel, they must now turn their attention to recovery, which includes building fairer and healthier societies.

Despite being highly diverse in terms of size, wealth, types of government and health outcomes, the region's countries have the same need at this point in their development: a new health-based social contract featuring stronger primary healthcare, improved social determinants of health, and more and fairer taxes.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2021, with the headline 'Re-imagining a fairer and healthier South-east Asia'. Subscribe