Last Friday, I had the privilege of attending the launch of a new global report that provides the clearest picture to date of countries’ progress moving toward universal health coverage (UHC). UHC is critical for building resilient health systems, which protect communities and strengthen societies in times of crisis and calm alike.
The report, released by the World Health Organization and the World Bank Group, builds on long-standing engagement and support by my organization, The Rockefeller Foundation, to develop indicators to measure and monitor progress for UHC. It is the first of its kind and represents a significant step forward in the global push to achieve health for all. Here’s why:
- This report reflects the continued global movement for UHC. More than 100 low- and middle-income countries, home to three-quarters of the world’s population, have taken steps to move toward UHC. Today, more people have access to health services with financial protection than ever before in history.
- Still far too many people are not able to access needed health services. Progress has not been swift or sweeping enough. According to the report, 400 million people lack access to one or more of seven lifesaving health services, including childhood immunization, malaria control, HIV/AIDS treatment, and family planning. The report also found that 17% of people in low- and middle-income countries are tipped into or pushed further into poverty because of health spending.
- UHC is measurable. One of the biggest obstacles to UHC has been lack of tools to monitor and measure progress. Better measurement is urgently needed to drive progress—for example, for progress on non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer, which are a growing health challenge in many countries.
- UHC is an opportunity to consolidate Millennium Development Goal progress in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will further elevate UHC as a global priority. Better measurement will equip governments and empower civil society with tools to track progress and ensure that commitments turn to action.
- Six-month countdown. The report kicked off the six-month countdown to Universal Health Coverage Day 2015. On December 12, 2014, The Rockefeller Foundation convened a global coalition of more than 500 health and development organizations to launch the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day. This year, Universal Health Coverage Day will provide a platform to call for even greater commitments to build stronger, more equitable health systems.
The Rockefeller Foundation looks forward to accelerating the global movement toward UHC in the post-2015 era. This report gives us a critical boost in making the movement more targeted and data-driven, which should help us galvanize policymakers and, ultimately, reach the 400 million people in need of health coverage.
Follow Robert Marten on Twitter: @MartenRobert
Tracking Universal Health Coverage: First Global Monitoring Report
2014 PLoS Medicine Collection on Monitoring UHC