Health is a Right, Not a Privilege: Universal Health Coverage Gains Momentum

By Jennifer Orford

Over the next two weeks Impact will post the top 12 global health moments of 2015 with commentary from experts. We want to hear your thoughts, too. So login and comment, share on social media and reflect on what has been a pretty interesting year for global health.

In 2015, a global coalition to urge governments to ensure everyone, everywhere, can access quality health services without being forced into poverty grew with support from more than 600 leading health and development organizations worldwide. Since its launch in the last days of 2014, the Universal Health Coverage Day coalition has enlisted governments around the world to join the effort, with over 100 low- and middle-income countries already taking steps to deliver universal health coverage.

In September 2015, universal health coverage (UHC) as a worldwide goal was codified in a target of Sustainable Development Goal 3: Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

“With nearly half the world’s population now living in a country advancing toward universal health coverage, the case for universal coverage is strong and growing stronger,” says Dr. Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “There is still work to be done to ensure more equitable access to life-saving services for the poorest and most vulnerable people.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group, and The Rockefeller Foundation, 400 million people do not have access to essential health services and 17% of people in low- and middle-income countries are tipped into, or pushed further into, poverty because of health spending. Each year, millions of people fall into poverty because they or a family member becomes seriously ill and they have to pay for care out of their own pockets. The inability to access necessary health care can pave the way for disease outbreaks to become catastrophic epidemics.

The inability to access necessary health care can pave the way for disease outbreaks to become catastrophic epidemics.

“Putting people’s health needs ahead of their ability to pay stems poverty and stimulates growth,” says Dr. Tim Evans, Senior Director for the Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group. “Universal health coverage is an essential ingredient to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity within a generation.”

Rallying cries increased in 2015 for inclusion of the private sector in any plan to reach UHC. The majority of poor people access health care through the private sector and if it is overlooked UHC can’t harness the power of existing infrastructure, and will be incomplete.

“Bringing private sector providers into the mix also allows for increased choice and competition — both important market forces,” says Karl Hofmann, president and CEO of Population Services International (PSI). “National insurance is just one promising example that can make it easier for people to access both public and private health providers. And by increasing access to and demand for health products and services, you increase use and market sustainability for those who need it most.”


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