Towards Universal Health Coverage: Moving UHC Forward

Towards Universal Health Coverage: Moving UHC Forward

UHC Forward website (UHCForward.org)UHC Forward website (UHCForward.org)

Cross-posted from the UHC Forward blog

To support the efforts of countries that have committed to making substantive universal health coverage reforms, experts in many areas of financial protection must continually share in dialogue and debate.

To this end, the Results for Development Institute, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, is pleased to announce the launch of UHC Forward, a new website that tracks and consolidates key health coverage information from hundreds of sources into a one-stop portal with feature news, events, and publications related to the growing global universal health coverage (UHC) movement.

The launch of UHC Forward responds to the growing global interest in the expansion of health coverage through more equitable and sustainable domestic health financing reforms. Recent examples include: the 2010 World Health Report, Health Systems Financing: The Path to Universal Coverage and the related 2011 World Health Assembly Resolution on Sustainable Health Financing Structures and Universal Health Coverage (PDF); and the recent 2010 and planned 2012 Global Symposiums on Health Systems Research, each focusing on universal coverage.

Universal Health Coverage – also referred to as Universal Coverage or Social Health Protection – is a fairer, more efficient financing mechanism that pools risk and shares health care costs more equitably across a population to improve access to services and reduce out-of-pocket costs and poverty caused by catastrophic health care expenditures.

Despite progress in some countries, close to half the world’s population must pay a hefty fee at the door before they receive health care. Many are forced to choose between paying catastrophic portions of their available income and going without needed services, perpetuating a vicious cycle of sickness and poverty.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year these costs push approximately 100 million people  worldwide below the poverty line. Statistics such as this have spurred countries as varied as South Africa, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria to begin aggressively navigating complex legal, financial, and political frameworks to determine the best path towards universal health coverage reform.

While universal health coverage is not a new concept, over the past decade we have seen a growing movement within low- and middle income countries towards UHC reforms.

Over the past year alone, South Africa released a National Health Insurance (NHI) Green Paper outlining its plans to offer all South Africans access to a defined package of comprehensive health services, India’s central government announced its own plans to begin making moves towards universal coverage by the end of the current decade, and Mexico is expected to announce that it has achieved universal health coverage through Seguro Popular – its innovative health insurance program.

The process of achieving universal health coverage is iterative, and it requires political will to make significant strides. There is much healthy debate about how countries should approach coverage reforms and the specific policies they should adopt to achieve their goals and avoid unintended consequences. However, there is growing evidence that movement toward universal health coverage is possible. While reforms in many countries are imperfect and require continuous improvements, their efforts show promise for increasing access to health services and reducing out-of-pocket payments by poor and vulnerable populations.

We hope that this website will bring together the health financing community, allow visitors to stay informed of health coverage efforts in countries around the world, explore key issues and policy debates related to universal health coverage, and exchange ideas with others by submitting blogs.

By encouraging our colleagues to engage in debate, we hope that this site will support the global movement toward universal health coverage implementation and financial protection for the poor.

David de Ferranti is the President (and founder) of Results for Development. 

Editor's note: MSH President Dr. Jonathan Quick serves as an advisor to the new UHC Forward website. 

Comment on this post at UHC Forward.

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