Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

 {Photo credit: Fred Hartman/MSH}Billboard, Liberia.Photo credit: Fred Hartman/MSH

[Universal Health Coverage Day.]Universal Health Coverage Day.Management Sciences for Health (MSH) bloggers are discussing universal health coverage (UHC) and why we support health for all this week, leading up to Dec. 12, UHC Day. MSH is a founding member of the UHC Day coalition. Today, MSH authors Chelsey Canavan, Jonathan Jay, and Dr. Jonathan D. Quick discuss if, and how, UHC could help prevent major outbreaks, like the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

This post originally appeared on Devex.

Dec. 12, marks Universal Health Coverage Day, the second anniversary of a United Nations resolution endorsing UHC as a global priority. The last two years have seen a growing consensus that pursuing UHC will save lives and alleviate poverty, especially in developing countries.

Meanwhile, the devastating Ebola crisis continues to claim lives and stifle opportunity in West Africa. Observers were quick to note that UHC could have helped arrest the spread of Ebola, yet countries like Nigeria, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — all quite early on their paths toward UHC — have successfully contained Ebola outbreaks.

So is UHC really the answer?

Ebola shows us that more resources must go toward public health infrastructure. That’s an important lesson for UHC reforms, which could easily overlook those investments in favor of individual health services. UHC strategies can’t rest on individual service delivery to mitigate major health threats. When we imagine UHC, we should see institutions and organizations actively promoting the public’s health—long before the need for emergency response.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

Staff contributors at Management Sciences for Health (MSH), a founding member of the UHC Day coalition, are blogging this week about universal health coverage, including sharing fresh videos, photos, and analysis, inspired by the five reasons to support health for all. Each day we also include how you can take action right away to support health for all.

Today, we highlight reason two ("Because UHC is attainable") with video and stories from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria--countries working toward UHC.

Because Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is Attainable

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 {Photo credit: Anteneh Lemma/MSH}The Health for All Campaign in Kenya is hosting a series of debates on universal health coverage.Photo credit: Anteneh Lemma/MSH

“I wish I had called this event,” said Mr. Simone Ole Kirgotty, CEO of Kenyan National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). This came as a surprise to many since the CEO was bombarded with critical questions and comments about the activities of the organization he has been leading for the last two years. “If it was new for me to lead such a controversial organization, I would have run away after all these comments,” added Mr. Kirgotty cheerfully.

It was during a public debate in Nairobi, organized by the Health for All: Campaign for Universal Health Coverage in Africa (Health for All Campaign), that the CEO of Kenya NHIF made these remarks. The debate, entitled: “Improving Communications to Scale up Public Engagement with NHIF: Challenges and Prospects,” was part of a series of debates being conducted in seven counties in Kenya. As highlighted by Dr. Daraus Bukenya, Country Representative for MSH Kenya, the major objective of the debates is to get clarity on NHIF activities, to create a platform for community engagement, and to identify and put together recommendations to NHIF to work toward universal health coverage in Kenya. The first debate was held on November 17, 2014 in Nyeri.

{Photo credit: Mark Tuschman.}Photo credit: Mark Tuschman.

#HealthforAll. Everywhere. ]" width="200">. Everywhere. Post updated: December 9, 2014, 11:30 am EST

On Friday, December 12, 2014, a global coalition will launch the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) and call for universal health coverage (UHC) to be a cornerstone of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and a priority for all nations. UHC Day encourages civil society organizations from around the globe to publicly display support of UHC and health for all on Friday. Over four hundred organizations have already joined the call.

 {Photo credit: MSH}State Minister of Health Dr. Kebede Worku thanked MSH for continued support the last ten years.Photo credit: MSH

“MSH is like my mother,’’ said Yimenu, a young medical professional from East Gojam, a place about 600 kilometers from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. “I have been suffering for five years and it was because of MSH that I started living all over again.”

Yimenu is the voice of thousands: the symbol of partnership that contributed significantly to the country’s increasingly strengthened health sector to save lives.

“I ask no more than an opportunity to help others,” said Yimenu looking at the crowd with complete joy.

[Yimenu testifies about MSH's impact.] {Photo credit: MSH}Yimenu testifies about MSH's impact.Photo credit: MSH

It was during the celebration of Management Sciences for Health (MSH) Ethiopia’s 10th anniversary that Yimenu gave this testimony about the support he got from MSH. The event was a celebration of the ten years journey. Challenges were faced, frustrations overcame, mountains and rivers crossed. It was a journey of courage, determination and most of all, the noblest mission of saving lives.

 {Photo credit: MSH Ethiopia.}Panelists at the UHC symposium (from left): Jonathan D. Quick (MSH), Mr. Amsalu Shiferaw (WHO), Dr. Yayehyirad, (independent health scholar), Prof. Damen (Addis Ababa University).Photo credit: MSH Ethiopia.

It came as a surprise to many attending the symposium—health insurance in Ethiopia had been talked about in the media for a while, but most didn’t know the preparations had gone this far. It was at a high level session that the Acting Director General of the Ethiopian Health Insurance Agency, Dr. Mengistu Bekele, explained the work the government has been doing to start the implementation of the twin health insurance schemes. Dr. Mengistu indicated the government’s effort to introduce the health insurance scheme is part of its move towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). “Of course it can be done!” said Dr. Mengistu reaffirming the commitment and tying up his presentation with the theme of the symposium: “Achieving UHC in low- and middle-income countries: Can it be done?”

 {Photo credit: Morgan Wingard for USAID}Liberia.Photo credit: Morgan Wingard for USAID

The October/November issue of the Global Health Impact Newsletter (subscribe) focuses on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and MSH's response, including what is needed to save lives, contain Ebola (or any similar outbreak), and maintain essential health services: stronger health systems.

A Note from Dr. Jonathan Quick

[Dr. Jonathan D. Quick]Dr. Jonathan D. QuickThe Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented. Already, over 13,000 people have been affected and over 5,000 lives lost. What’s more, this outbreak was preventable.

 {Photo credit: Todd Shapera}A 27-week premature baby in an incubator at Kibuye Hospital, Karongi District, western Rwanda.Photo credit: Todd Shapera

November is Prematurity Awareness Month in the US, and the 17th is World Prematurity Day. But I never need any reminders about the importance of access to medicines and services for premature babies. Every November, I celebrate the birthday of my own little preemie. On November 30, 1997, I went into labor just after reaching 32 weeks. I was terrified. I had had a healthy second pregnancy up to that point and my doctor did not believe me at first when I told her I was in labor. After a somewhat traumatic trip to the clinic and then the delivery, my tiny bundle of joy arrived, weighing in at a meager 1.5 kg (3.3.lbs). We were so very lucky to have access to excellent health services, not just for delivery and newborn care, but for his whole first year or so of life, when visits to the doctor to check on his heart, lungs, eyes and overall development were a weekly occurrence.

 {Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}A health worker speaks with a woman and her baby outside a clinic in Ethiopia. Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman develops high blood sugar during pregnancy.Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

This post originally appeared on Devex on November 14, World Diabetes Day ().

During her third pregnancy, Eden Bihon visited the Mekelle Health Center in Tigray, Ethiopia. Although a routine prenatal visit, it held great importance for Eden, as she had recently lost her second child, who died from unknown causes at the age of just one year.

Unknown to her at the time, this visit would have lasting implications for Eden and her baby. A 23-year-old mother, Eden, like most Ethiopian women, had concerns about her pregnancy and well-being. But gestational diabetes was not one of them.

Devex #Healthymeans graphic.
On October 27, Devex launched , a month-long online campaign to raise awareness about global health challenges and opportunities. Throughout the month of November, Devex and partners are encouraging discussion around the question: What does healthy mean to you?

Join Nov. 13, 1 pm EST with hashtags  and

On November 13, MSH () and partners are leading a Twitter chat from 1:00-1:30 pm EST on "Maximizing Global Health Synergies in Post-2015 Era". Led by Jonathan Jay (), guest-tweeting with , we'll discuss:
  1. What health target or outcome is your top priority for the post-2015 era?

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