EHS-COVID (241) What are 'essential health services'? (3)

23 February, 2021

Dear Meena and all,

Thanks for your comments. As you say, 'countries will need to define and prioritise their list of services as essential'. This raises a number of questions. How do individual governments compile such a list? What tools are available to help them? Once a country's essential health services list has been developed, is it then prioritised? How can countries then implement these into policy and practice?

The identification of essential health services inevitably means that some services will need to be designated as 'less essential' or 'non-essential'. It would be interesting to review and compare 'essntial' and 'non-essential' services across countries. Politically, there are presumably major challenges in designating services as 'less essential' or 'non-essential'.

One example perhaps of 'less essential' treatment is elective surgery (such as hip replacement) where operations are being deferred for several months. These delays can cause great additional suffering to individual patients. How are different countries handling elective surgery? What other examples are there of 'less essential' care that is being deliberately deprioritised?

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: