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New survey highlights signs of health system recovery after Covid

Health systems are showing the first major signs of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, but further investment in recovery and resilience is needed, according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

By early 2023, fewer countries reported intentionally scaling back access across all service delivery platforms and essential public health functions since the last round of reporting. In fact, disruptions in the delivery of routine health services were found to have declined on average from 56% in July-September 2021 to 23% in November 2022-January 2023.

The WHO interim report on the fourth round of the global pulse survey also revealed the number of countries reporting disruption to their national supply chain system reduced from nearly half (29 of 59 responding countries) to around a quarter (18 of 66 responding countries) within the last year.

Disruptions persist post Covid-19

Despite this improvement in Covid-19 recovery, the report found that demand and supply disruptions persist, with increasing service backlogs – most frequently in screening, diagnosis and treatment of noncommunicable diseases – being prevalent across all countries responding to the survey.

“It is welcome news that health systems in the majority of countries are starting to restore essential health services for millions of people who missed them during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Rudi Eggers, WHO Director for Integrated Health Services. “But we need to ensure that all countries continue to close this gap to recover health services and apply lessons learnt to build more prepared and resilient health systems for the future.”

Concerns remain over the delayed recovery of essential health service delivery as this “may have even greater adverse health effects at population and individual level than the pandemic itself, especially among vulnerable populations”, the WHO concluded.

To this end, three quarters of countries reported additional funding allocation towards longer term system recovery, resilience and preparedness.

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