This commentary first appeared on the UHC2030 website. Full list of authors: Craig Burgess, Anna Marriott, Khuat Thi Hai Oanh, Bruno Rivalan, James Sale
Despite the international commitment to UHC, half of the world’s 7.3 billion people do not have access to essential health services; the number of people impoverished by health spending remains unchanged; and catastrophic health expenditure is on the rise. Health coverage has been increasing at a rate of just over 1% per year.
universal health coverage; UHC
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All people are entitled to quality essential health services, without suffering financial hardship to pay for health expenses when they are sick. This simple but powerful belief undergirds the growing movement towards universal health coverage (UHC), now a global commitment under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Universal health coverage, a pillar of sustainable development, is highlighted in Agenda 2030, to promote health and well-being for all. Propelled by the United Nations and global partners, the universal health coverage movement has gained momentum, calling on countries to scale up efforts so that every person—but especially the disenfranchised and most vulnerable amongst us—can access affordable, quality care.
Back in the 1930s, Sri Lanka thought it would be a good idea to give everyone free access to health care. More than 75 years later, as the global health community bangs the drum for universal health coverage (UHC), Sri Lankans can be forgiven for letting out a yawn and wondering what all the fuss is about. But as shown by a workshop organized in Colombo last week to mark the first World UHC Day, the concept of universal health coverage (“all people receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship”) does still have relevance here.
Start with the history. By 1960 Sri Lanka’s health indicators were already well above the curve for its income level, and it was close to having the best health outcomes in developing Asia. It started the MDG era in 1990 with a level of child mortality that was lower than where most Asian countries – including Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and its South Asian neighbors India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – will finish it in 2015. Vaccination rates are above 99%. And all this was achieved without results-based financing, conditional cash transfers, or today’s other proposed silver bullet solutions for improving health.
As a newcomer in my new post in Accra, I am starting to learn about Ghana’s achievements and challenges. I have been impressed with some innovative policies and measures adopted to address difficult development challenges in the social sectors.