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THET Spotlight: World Health Day – UHC

4 April 2018


More than half of the world’s more than 7.3 billion people do not receive the essential package of health services they need.

Seventy years ago the World Health Organization (WHO) was founded on the principle that all people should be able to realise their right to the highest possible level of health.

Forty years later THET was founded, with the same guiding vision and with the belief that the UK health community could be doing so much more to support our colleagues overseas. Over these years THET’s geographic focus has expanded considerably, from a partnership with the universities of Jimma and Gondar in Ethiopia, to projects taking place across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The scope of our mission has also broadened, from a focus on non-communicable diseases to more comprehensive efforts to tackle the most pressing issues in global health. Most spectacularly, our partnerships have grown: who would have imagined 30 years ago, that global health would establish such a central role in the life of NHS Trusts and UK academic institutions – over 130 of whom we have partnered with in the past seven years?

It is fitting then that this year’s World Health Day focus is on Universal Health Coverage and #HealthForAll.

THET is proud to stand today and always with our partners at WHO, as an NGO in official relations, and as a community of health and development professionals who believe, with passion, that everyone, everywhere, should have the right to the health services they need without facing financial hardship.

At the heart of all we do is the health professional. As the slogan reads: there is no health without health workers.  And here we face staggering challenges, overseas but also here at home in the UK.

By 2030, the world will see a shortfall of 18million health workers. This is a crisis that will affect us all, in the NHS and in low and middle income countries. This is why, through our programmes and grant management we continue to focus on the dedicated and hard-working nurses, surgeons, biomedical engineers, doctors, and health workers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East – reaching 22,000 in 2017.

Alongside our programmes work and grant-making THET is pushing for policy change which will see closer and more collaborative partnerships between the UK and health services overseas.

To further these efforts we have launched our Thematic Task Forces. Five groups composed of THET staff, trustees and advisors who meet to coordinate and stream line our thinking on key thematic issues. This then guides our programme design ensuring that we are offering the right solutions to the most pertinent issues in each country:

  • Gender
  • Health Technology Management
  • Non-Communicable Diseases
  • Mental Health
  • Global Surgery and Anaesthesia

Each theme has been chosen because we think they are often neglected by both the development and global health sectors. Our interest in these particular themes also runs deeper and if you’d like to know more, we’ve provided a summary below.

Today I am pleased to launch two of our Thematic Task Force Position Papers on Mental Health and Non Communicable Diseases. Please do get in touch with us and let us know your thoughts. I look forward to sharing our future papers with you during the course of the year

All that is left to say is Happy World Health Day! Thank you for continuing to support our efforts to further global health and I hope that you enjoy meeting the health workers behind the health themes in our latest e-bulletin.

Our Thematic Task Forces


Half of the world is female: this is a reality that can no longer be ignored. Women and girls, especially in LMICs, still face big gaps in accessing healthcare. On 7 March 2017, following DFID’s evaluation of the Health Partnership Scheme, we made the commitment to become more conscious about how our work at THET is advancing gender equality. A year later we launched our #LetsTalkAboutGender initiative to encourage the health partnership community to share their evidence, insights and experiences on how they are considering gender as part of their initiatives to support the health workforce and improve health systems in LMICs…we would love to hear from you!

Health Technology Management

When you think of healthcare you think of the doctor’s treating diabetic patients, surgeons fixing broken bones and midwives caring newborns but often the world forgets about the machines and electronic systems that underpin this life-saving work. Globally, Bio-Medical Engineers (BME) are among the most neglected health workers. THET is among only a few international organisations that develop capacity development programmes for them.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Thirty years ago THET began its work, driven by requests to aid with the care of patients suffering with non-communicable diseases in Ethiopia, decentralising services from urban hospitals to rural health centres. This work, carried out in partnership with Jimma and Gondar Universities and UK academic institutions – now under the umbrella of the THET Ethiopia NCD Alliance (THENA) – still today remains at the heart of our mission. Back then we had no data, the world was unaware of the burden and devastation NCDs around the world were causing to unsuspecting populations. Today we know that each year 40 million people die from NCDs and over 80% of these “premature” deaths occur in LMICs.  We are proud that our commitment to NCDs continues and that under the leadership of, rather fittingly, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus NCDs are moving to the top of the global agenda.

Mental Health

Today, we are more and more aware of the interconnections between physical and mental conditions. The famous saying ‘there is no health without mental health’ rings truer than ever as it is estimated that 1 in 4 will be affected by mental health issues during their lifetime. 80% of those affected by mental health (MH) issues live in LMICs, yet the care available is inadequate (WHO, 2009). From former patients trained to provide peer support in Uganda, to community workshops on the severe affects of alcohol addiction in Ghana we are proud to work with partners around the world to improve care for those often suffering in the shadows.

Global Surgery and Anaesthesia

From paediatric orthopaedic surgery in Ethiopia, to fistula repair in Uganda the causes of surgical interventions are vast and varied. We know that in Africa, a patient is twice as likely to die after an operation than anywhere else in the world[1]. At THET we are outraged by this. Global surgery, the ‘neglected stepchild of global health’[3], remains a looming health crisis within low and middle income countries. And yet apart from the humanitarian arguments for saving lives and reducing disability, the social and economic arguments for growing and strengthening the surgical workforce are compelling.


[1] http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30001-1/fulltext

This post was written by:

Ben Simms - CEO - THET


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