Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

 {Photo credit: MSH/Paula Champagne}Participants of "Medicines as Part of UHC: Starting a Dialogue".Photo credit: MSH/Paula Champagne

What do medicines, financing, governance, and management have in common?

They are all essential pieces of the puzzle that must come together in order to make universal health coverage (UHC) a realizable goal.

From June 2-4, 2013, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation and Harvard Medical School’s Department of Population Medicine, and additional support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), brought representatives of countries working towards UHC, private insurance schemes, and medicines and financing experts from across the globe to start a dialogue around medicines coverage under UHC.

Dr. Jonathan Quick, MSH’s President and CEO opened the event: “UHC is about filling the tragic gaps that exist in health systems around the world: gaps in access, in affordability, and health needs that go unanswered.”

 {Photo credit: MSH/Paula Champagne}Constance Addo-Quaye, Deputy Director of Quality Insurance at National Health Insurance Authority, Ghana.Photo credit: MSH/Paula Champagne

Universal health coverage (UHC) is the ultimate accomplishment in health systems strengthening: UHC is achieved when a health system is strong enough to deliver high-quality products and services in a reliable, comprehensive and affordable way to its entire population. For the leaders who govern health systems, UHC is an ambitious and worthy goal. And as MSH President and CEO Jonathan Quick explains, success starts with their vision.

But what comes next? UHC carries unique governance challenges and can exacerbate existing challenges surrounding healthcare financing and service delivery. To overcome these challenges, leaders and managers will benefit greatly from sharing lessons from other health systems that are pursuing UHC or have achieved it already.

Ghana. {Photo credit: Rui Pires}Photo credit: Rui Pires

Modern medicines, vaccines, and other health technologies have revolutionized health care. Yet these products haven’t improved lives everywhere, often because health systems haven’t made them accessible and affordable. In many developing countries, where health systems still rely heavily on out-of-pocket expenditure, patients face high costs at the point of service. Some people forgo necessary care; others endure financial hardship or even impoverishment. A majority of out-of-pocket spending goes towards medicines.

{Photo credit: MSH}Photo credit: MSH

This post originally appeared on Devex.com.

The Afghan health system was in shambles after the Taliban government was chased from power in December 2001. Immunization rates had fallen below 20 percent and nine out of ten women were on their own for labor and delivery. Suhaila Seddiqi, newly appointed as public health minister, could have begun her tenure with highly visible and politically popular moves like building hospitals in the major cities. She didn’t. Instead, she led the development of a basic package of essential primary care services and coordinated its delivery to Afghans throughout the country, including remote rural areas. It worked. By 2010, twice as many Afghans had access to family planning, maternal deaths were down by two thirds, and reductions in child mortality had saved 150,000 lives.

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We've redesigned and rebuilt our site from the ground up: showcasing our unique technical expertise and staff, values, global footprint, and mission to save lives and improve health among the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. 

We also have integrated our Global Health Impact blog into the website to continue cutting-edge discussions on global health.  

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Watch the short video -- and see some of the new features firsthand:

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

The May issue of the MSH Global Health Impact newsletter (subscribe) features stories on gender equity, UHC, and family planning including:

A girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo {Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

All involved with women’s health and gender wish that access to quality health care for women and girls was easy to achieve at scale. But the attitudes and expectations of many societies limit women’s and girls’ access to resources and skills associated with better health. And health-related vulnerabilities and poor outcomes for women and girls have social and financial costs that hamper the consistency and quality of available health services. 

To advocate for universal health coverage (UHC), and help countries achieve this worthy goal, health leaders, managers, and those who govern must work to end social biases and gender-based discrimination--whether deliberate or unintended. 

Among other things, health leaders must support the hiring and promotion of women; advocate for gender-sensitive employment and working conditions; help to reduce women’s out-of-pocket healthcare payments (that are generally higher than men’s due in part to the high costs of newborn deliveries and reproductive health services); adjust clinic hours to accommodate women and girls’ mobility constraints; and consider how even unexpected health provider bias can make female clients hesitate to seek the services they need in a timely fashion. 

{Photo credit: Dominic Chavez}Photo credit: Dominic Chavez

(This post has also appeared on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists and on the blog of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition.)

Our MSH colleague Lucy Sakala was an HIV counselor in Malawi. She worked with clients who were receiving HIV tests. When clients were diagnosed HIV positive, many were eligible for treatment and could begin antiretroviral therapy. HIV care had become available in Malawi because of transformative efforts to reduce ARV prices and increase their availability, such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

In a couple of days, thousands of decision-makers, leaders, advocates, health professionals, media, and more will gather to focus on our most valuable investment: women and girls.

We are honored to be a Gold Sponsor and Advisory Group member of Women Deliver 2013. Over 30 staff members representing 10 countries will participate in the conference by speaking, moderating, leading, and learning together with the 5,000 attendees in Kuala Lumpur.

For over 40 years, MSH has worked shoulder-to-shoulder in partnership with over 150 countries---currently in over 65---saving lives and improving the health of women, girls, men, and boys. Our programs empower women; sensitize men; and integrate maternal, newborn, and child health, family planning and reproductive health, and HIV & AIDS services to improve access to quality care and, ultimately, save lives.

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