Thousands of people across the world joined together to celebrate Patient Solidarity Day on 5 December 2015. 108 organizations across 32 countries declared that healthcare is a human right. Patients and representatives marched in defence of their rights, lobbied politicians, provided free health screenings and stood together in solidarity. The campaign reached over 100,000 people via social media and dozens wrote articles and blog posts to mark the occasion.
GIST Chile and Chilean patients' groups mark Patient Solidarity Day 2015.
How did it start?
The Morris Moses Foundation started Patient Solidarity Day in Kenya in 2011. The day aligned with IAPO's vision - to put patients at the centre of healthcare - and IAPO's African members began to join the campaign. The Day was marked in Kenya and Uganda in 2012, and by 2013, organizations from across the African content held a wide range of activities to show their support.
Patient Solidarity Day became a global event for the first time in 2014. 80 organizations from 32 countries took part. IAPO members chose 'universal health coverage' as the year's theme and showed their support with awareness walks, hospital visits, free health screenings, debates, meeting health ministers, writing articles and much more.
Choosing a theme
In September 2015, IAPO members voted on a list of themes for the Day and selected 'healthcare is a human right.' IAPO expanded and strengthened the message before sharing it with the wider public.
“We should all have access to the healthcare we need: good quality,affordable care without fear of discrimination. This is our human right.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that every person has ‘the right to the highest attainable standard of health’.* Decision-makers in every country and continent are obliged to make this happen: to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of patients.**
This Patient Solidarity Day we call on individuals, organizations and institutions to agree that healthcare is a human right for all – without exception – which must be reflected at every level of care. Systems should be designed and services delivered to meet the needs of patients.
We call on everyone to stand together on 5 December to raise awareness under this banner, to change the perspectives of others and to improve the lives of patients around the world.”
* A Human Rights-Based Approach to Health, WHO. ** A Human Rights-Based Approach to Health, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Creating adaptable resources
IAPO created a range of resources designed to help members and other groups participate in the Day. This included a logo and slogan, a handbook with key messages and ideas for taking part, example posters and fliers, press releases and tips for engaging with decision-makers and the media. Materials were translated into Spanish and were available for download in both languages.
The resources were designed to be simple, adaptable and easily replicable. Many organizations printed banners (see below), posters and fliers with the logo and slogan to advertise their events. Others adapted the resources to make the campaign their own. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance explored palliative care as a human right and Coeliac UK created a graphic around improving diagnosis of coeliac disease to support the Day.
The Uganda Alliance of Patients' Organizations hosted a march to recognise Patient Solidarity Day 2015.
Global support on the Day
108 organizations from 32 countries took part in Patient Solidarity Day. The African Regional Office for the World Health Organization (WHO AFRO) officially supported the Day and the Western Pacific region for WHO wrote a letter of endorsement. Umbrella bodies such as the World Hepatitis Alliance and EURORDIS declared support, among many other individual organizations. Representatives from Latin America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia took part in various ways.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for WHO AFRO, said:
Healthcare must be provided in a manner where there is respect for patients’ rights and organized around the health needs and expectations of people rather than diseases. Patients should be empowered with the necessary education and support to know their rights.
Without more inclusive engagement of people, and efficient and equitable health systems in the African Region, countries will not be able to scale up the disease prevention and control programmes required to meet the health needs and expectations of their people.
Health is a fundamental human right and as we commemorate Patient Solidarity Day in the African Region, I urge governments, policy-makers, health professionals and service providers to put into practice policies and services that facilitate affordable, high quality equitable access for all.
I call upon all stakeholders to advocate for equity and human rights in healthcare to improve the lives of patients.
Read the rest of her speech in full.
A participant at the Consumer Online Foundation event in India.
Events around the world
Organizations and individuals marked the Day in culturally-specific ways to meet the needs of their own communities. Many of these are included in the Patient Solidarity Day photo album. Events included:
- Petitions to Governments and Ministries of Health
- Awareness-raising marches
- Radio programmes
- Seminars and talks
- Meetings between patients and healthcare professionals
- Visits to hospitals and children's hospitals
- Free health screenings
- Free legal aid
- Patient Solidarity Day t-shirts
- Handing out flyers
Platform for Labour Action celebrated the occasion with the Uganda Alliance of Patients' Organizations (UAPO) in Luwero District, Uganda:
81 clients were provided with free primary legal aid and over 600 residents received secondary legal aid services (creating awareness on workers’ rights and responsibilities, land matters, domestic violence and child neglect, child labour, trafficking in persons and social security).
The event was organized by the Uganda Alliance of Patients' Organization (UAPO) in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and CHAIN Uganda. Hundreds of community members also received different free health services including HIV/AIDS testing and counseling, safe male circumcision, cancer screening, reproductive health services, medicine, vaccination and condoms among others.
From top left, clockwise: UAPO (Uganda) marked the Day on 10 December 2015. Fundacion Metamorphosis (Guatemala) visited a children's hospital. Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations hosted a workshop. Consumer Online Foundation (India) hosted a lecture.
Support across digital channels
There was widespread support for the Day on social media. Over 100,000 people were reached via Twitter alone and many posted messages of support using the #PSD2015 hashtag. Others wrote articles and blog posts exploring the theme and purpose of Patient Solidarity Day. Some organizations created graphics and banners to raise awareness too.
Christian Locka, from Action pour l'Humanisation des Hôpitaux, wrote an open letter [in French] to the President of Cameroon, which was published by several national news outlets. The Day was also covered by national media in Ghana, Nigeria and 30 websites and blogs around the world.
Leanne Wells, CEO of Health Consumers Forum, wrote a post for the Croakey blog and discussed the lack of access to healthcare for many Australians today:
But healthcare as a human right will seem a sick joke to some Australians, such as the 14 per cent of those with a long term health condition who are more likely than those without to report problems caused by a lack of communication between health professionals, or the many people who wait years for elective surgery, or those with mental illness who cannot afford appropriate psychiatric care because it’s only available in a private hospital.
The Blood Patients Protection Council (India) held a march for patients' rights on the Day.
Who took part?
A big thank you to every organization and individual that took part in Patient Solidarity Day 2015. Together we declared that healthcare is a human right and raised awareness about the rights of patients all around the world.