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.
A new report on mental health in Ukraine offers a sobering picture of the often-ignored disease burden of mental disorders, which undermine human capital development and total wealth accumulation in a country. The World Bank Group estimates show that unaccounted “intangible capital” such as human capital, constitutes the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries, more than produced capital and natural resources.
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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).
Regulating tobacco use using excise taxation, restrictions on smoking in public places, and restrictions on youth access and sale of tobacco products is now a widely-accepted policy action to prevent its harmful health effects. The ruling by the United States Federal District Court that ordered the country’s four largest cigarette makers to make “corrective statements” to inform the public about the harms of cigarettes, including light and low-tar cigarettes, which began on November 26, 2017 for one year, using prime-time television commercials and full-page ads in newspapers, only confirms what is already known on the basis of accumulated evidence over the past half century: the manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery have led to addiction, ill health, and premature mortality and disability among smokers and among those exposed to secondhand smoke. And the recent decision by the Vatican to ban duty-free cigarette sales is a good example of how societal attitude towards tobacco use has changed: a sovereign state is willing to forego revenue from products that clearly harm people's health.
Imagine that today is a vaccination day in a rural health facility in Nigeria. About 25 mothers are sitting in a waiting room to get polio or DTP3 shots for their children. A health worker is about to deliver bad news to the waiting mothers: vaccines are out of stock, and three vials that have arrived are spoiled. Some mothers have traveled from afar and may not return later.