Universal Health Coverage
Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is when all people have access to health services (promotion, prevention, treatments and rehabilitation), without fear of falling into poverty.
To gain a better understanding of UHC's role in strengthening the health sector, increasing access to quality health services, fighting against inequity as well as improving health outcomes please see below:
Health coverage is determined not only by the direct cost of health services to the patient, but the financing mechanism that is used to pay for it, this can include user fees or progressive public financing, for example from specific taxes for health financing, etc. Indirect costs such as transportation, lost opportunities, job insecurity and childcare influence the uptake of health services, as do cultural and social norms. The availability of health services, the quality of care and predictability of costs incurred all influence health care coverage.
Around the world, the cost of healthcare continues to prevent poor people from seeking care while also pushing millions into poverty each year. All people should have access to health services without fear of falling into poverty. This is not only about ensuring the right to health, but making progress towards UHC will also accelerate social and economic growth and is fundamental to sustainable development.
Healthcare around the world is unaffordable for millions of people however states are responsible for delivering UHC systems according to their legal commitments to the Right to Health. This will only be possible if they develop sustainable health financing mechanisms to support strong and equitable national health systems.
To make UHC a reality, there is still the need for greater political will both at national level - to put in practice the reforms needed - and at international level to promote and revitalise a general consensus towards ‘health for all’, facilitating technical support and providing additional resources. Making progress towards UHC will accelerate social and economic growth, is fundamental to sustainable development and is fair.
We believe that political leaders, health ministries, governments and civil society all have a big role to play in helping the world take strides towards UHC. We fully support the inclusion of UHC as a sustainable development goal in the Post-2015 framework. However, in order to advance universal access to healthcare, the international community must support developing countries to raise funds for health, reduce reliance on out-of-pocket payments (especially through the elimination of user fees) and promote risk pooling in the form of an increased proportion of public financing for health spent more efficiently and equitably.
Non-financial barriers to healthcare are often based on local customs and national laws where rudimentary cultural beliefs perpetuated by communities create discrimination. It is also essential that access is included as a key component of UHC, particularly for marginalised, stigmatised and vulnerable populations. We are particularly concerned that ‘all populations, independent of household income, expenditure or wealth, place of residence or sex, have at a minimum 80% essential health services coverage’, mentioned in the WHO/WB global monitoring report, does not capture other factors of social marginalisation. In addition, civil society is calling for 100% coverage, not 80%.
For these reasons, AfGH convened a civil society meeting with participants from across Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Europe on strengthening UHC measurement and accountability. The declaration calls for greater inclusion of civil society in the design, monitoring, evaluation and implementation of health policies. Civil society is asking for greater political support and promoting a joint movement on this cause.
To read the declaration:
Please also see our previous Call to Action below: