December 12, 2014 |

Bringing health care to everyone

A PATH perspective on the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day.
A nurse holding a diagram of the female reproductive system speaks to a group.
Although Universal Health Coverage (UHC) may be particularly challenging to implement in low- and middle-income countries, that’s where the potential benefits are greatest. Photo: PATH/Will Boase.

Today is the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day

Here at PATH, we’re not strangers to health-focused observation days. In fact, we often commemorate these days by recommending ways in which high-quality health care and its delivery systems can be integrated and strengthened. I’m thrilled that for the first time in history, the world is calling attention to that solution in an official way.

About 1 billion people around the world lack access to basic health care. An estimated 2 billion people lack regular access to essential medicines.

More equitable health coverage would go a long way in preventing the deaths of children and women. Expanding coverage has been shown to prolong life, especially among underserved populations. But we must also ensure that all people obtain the high-quality health services they need without suffering undue financial hardship.

The cost of inaction is high

Although Universal Health Coverage (UHC) may be particularly challenging to implement in low- and middle-income countries, that’s where the potential benefits are greatest, specifically among the poorest and most rural communities.

Support among global development thought leaders is widespread. World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim declared UHC to be central to reaching their global goal to end extreme poverty by 2030. And World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan has declared that “universal health coverage is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer.”

Group of children smiling and laughing.
More equitable health coverage would go a long way in preventing the deaths of children and women. Photo: PATH/Siri Wood.

Global knowledge can help solve local problems

Where do we start? Although UHC solutions must be locally tailored for each country, there are recommendations all countries can take to ensure progress is made. Here are a few:

  • Committed: A primary health care system must receive a long-term commitment from national and local leadership, as well as support from donors and investors.
  • Accessible: Not only must health care be accessible to those seeking it, but the shared knowledge and resources needed by those providing care must also be available.
  • Measurable: Measurement and monitoring of health data must be strengthened to better understand health gaps and enact policies to ensure equitable health coverage.
  • Accountable: Mechanisms at local, national, regional, and global levels must be in place to ensure that policymakers deliver on promises and resources are used efficiently.

At PATH, we’re constantly looking for new and innovative ways to provide health equity, channeling the tremendous potential of inventive ideas, scientific discovery, and collaborations into better health and opportunity for all.

I encourage the global health community to talk about UHC as a realistic solution to ending preventable illnesses and deaths around the world.

More information

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  • Heather Ignatius is a senior advocacy and policy officer with the Advocacy and Public Policy Program at PATH.