La adopción de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS) durante las reuniones de la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas celebradas recientemente fue una noticia digna de festejo: el futuro al que aspiramos ahora incluye oficialmente la cobertura sanitaria universal, tal como se define en el ODS 3, meta 8. (i) Esa misma semana, también nos enteramos de que un grupo de economistas de 44 países había manifestado públicamente (i) que “la cobertura de salud universal tiene sentido desde el punto de vista económico”. Según parece, la marea ha cambiado en favor de brindar atención médica esencial a todo aquel que la necesita, sin generar dificultades financieras.
East Asia and Pacific
L’adoption des Objectifs de développement durable (ODD) lors de la récente assemblée générale des Nations Unies a apporté une excellente nouvelle : désormais, l’avenir que nous voulons inclut, entre autres, la couverture santé universelle, telle que définie par l’ODD n° 3, cible 8. La même semaine, un groupe d’économistes venant de 44 pays a déclaré publiquement (a) que la couverture santé universelle était « économiquement justifiée ». Il semble donc qu’un changement de cap s’opère pour permettre à tous ceux qui en ont besoin d’accéder à des soins de santé sans rencontrer de difficultés financières.
The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the recent U.N. General Assembly meetings brought especially welcome news: The future we want now officially includes universal health coverage (UHC), as defined under SDG 3, target 8. We also heard, the same week, from a group of economists from 44 countries, who publicly stated that “UHC makes economic sense.” It seems the tide has turned toward making essential health care available to all who need it, without creating financial hardship.
For the first time in history, more than half the human population lives in cities, and the vast majority of these people are poor. In Africa and Asia, the urban population is expected to increase between 30-50% between 2000 and 2020. This shift has led to a range of new public health problems, among them road traffic safety. Road crashes are the number 1 killer among those aged 15-29, and the 8th leading cause of death worldwide. The deadly impact from accidents is aggravated by pollution from vehicles, which now contributes to six of the top 10 causes of death globally.
Tobacco kills one-third to one-half of all people who use it, on average 15 years prematurely. The World Health Organization (WHO) has a target of a 30% reduction in smokers by 2025; but this is one target that would be great to exceed. Alcohol-attributable cancer, liver cirrhosis, and injury caused 1.5 million deaths globally in 2010.
Recently, the representatives of ministries of finance and ministries of health, as well as a host of civil society organizations and international organizations, met in Manila to consider lessons to be drawn from the international experience surrounding so-called sin taxes.
2014 is already shaping up to be another exciting year for the global movement for universal health coverage (UHC). I was just with World Bank Group President Jim Kim in Myanmar, where we are putting our previously announced global targets for universal health coverage into action.
On Jan. 29, 2014, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim spoke about Thailand’s effort to achieve universal health coverage at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Bangkok. In just one year, the country’s universal health coverage scheme added 18 million uninsured citizens to the rolls of the insured. Kim also addressed Thailand’s success in reducing new HIV infections by more than 90% from 1990 to 2013, which saved $18 billion. Read Kim’s full remarks.
This past week, I attended a couple of interesting seminars at the World Bank’s Human Development Forum on how some mineral-rich countries have been able to translate their newfound riches into sustained economic growth, improved living conditions, and better nutrition, health and education levels for their populations.
New estimates released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank show that the number of women dying due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved in 20 years—from more than 540,000 in 1990 to less than 290,000 in 2010.
This is good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. While substantial progress has been achieved at the global level, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will still fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5) target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% from 1990 to 2015.
Health systems are under pressure in Asia. Epidemiological and demographic transitions are taking place much faster than in Europe and America, in the span of a single generation. With the transition comes the non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemic that requires more sophisticated and expensive interventions provided by hospitals, inpatient or outpatient. Rapid economic development in Asia has lifted millions out of poverty and raised peoples’ expectations for services. Between China, India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, expansion of health insurance coverage during the last decade has reached an additional one billion people, making services more affordable and thus increasing demand. Advancing medical technology eagerly awaited by specialist doctors sitting on top of health professional hierarchies further expands possibilities for treatment. The middle class votes with their feet and takes their health problems to medical tourism meccas like those in Bangkok and Singapore, voiding their own countries of additional income to health care providers. Policymakers are scrambling to expand hospital capacity, boost the pay of health professionals, and encourage investment to meet the demand.
But governments do not wait. They are exploring hospital autonomy, decentralization, user fees and private sector participation. These policies often pose risks that need to be mitigated by policies and institutional arrangements. For example, health care providers sometimes order unnecessary procedures to earn additional revenue, thanks to the powerful incentive of the fee-for-service payment mechanism and information asymmetry between the patient and health care provider. This can mean financial ruin for both the patient and new, relatively weak health insurance agencies.
Despite these challenges, hospitals aren’t high on the international health development agenda, save a few initiatives to improve quality and provider payment reform.