MSH Welcomes UN High-Level Panel Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Urges UN Secretary General to Recommend Universal Health Coverage as a Health Target

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

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) welcomes the report of the United Nations High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The HLP’s advisory report, released May 30, is part of an ongoing process of defining the global targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. MSH believes the report demonstrates the panel’s ongoing commitment to health as an essential component of sustainable development and improving lives around the world.

The panel named five specific health targets focusing on infant and child health, immunization, maternal mortality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and high-burden communicable and chronic diseases. While the panel recognized that universal access to basic health services will be necessary to achieve these goals, it did not recommend an explicit target for increasing healthcare access or coverage.

MSH strongly urges the UN Secretary General to include a target of universal health coverage (UHC) in his post-2015 agenda report to be released in September at the UN General Assembly.

MSH believes adding UHC as a target will maximize health impact for women, children and families and ensure sustainable health systems.

“UHC brings together everything that global health advocates have called for,” said Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, President and CEO of MSH, “and it does so in an efficient, sustainable way. UHC is not just the best way, but the only way to address our shared health priorities.”

In far too many settings, modern healthcare is unaffordable, inaccessible, or both. The UHC concept provides (1) the vision of giving everyone access to the quality healthcare services they need, without financial hardship, and (2) the financing and service delivery strategies necessary to achieve this goal.

UHC saves lives by prioritizing basic primary care services. These can eliminate the majority of preventable deaths, especially surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and childhood. UHC’s comprehensive approach can safeguard health through every stage of life and can respond to newer priorities like the high burden of chronic disease. UHC gives health officials the financial leverage they need to make the most of resources like trained health workers, healthcare infrastructure and essential medicines, and to ensure high-quality care.

UHC improves equity by eliminating the user fees which can discourage people from getting care, while protecting against catastrophic costs that can force families into poverty. UHC brings comprehensive, high-quality healthcare to many people who could never obtain it otherwise, delivering on the promise of health as a human right.

UHC is critical to sustainable development in the post-2015 era. UHC generates greater resources for health by mobilizing all viable funding sources, both global and domestic, within a coordinated framework. International assistance is still essential in many settings, and can be particularly effective for scaling up services which are nonexistent or underperforming. At the same time, UHC can be a rallying point for increasing domestic health financing, and a stable domestic funding base allows health systems to tap into increased government revenue as economies grow. More than any other health strategy, UHC requires—and strengthens—country ownership.

Progress toward UHC is highly measurable along multiple indicators. Still, post-2015 targets need not require that every country achieve robust UHC in the measurement period. Instead, they should set ambitious yet realistic expectations for every health system, recognizing that the starting points vary widely. In some countries, for example, the road to UHC begins at near-zero coverage and might seek initially to cover the poorest residents, later incorporating other populations. Countries with already-high coverage might focus on expanding the services covered and/or bringing coverage to 100 percent of the population.

As the High-Level Panel noted, the next generation of development goals should be bold and transformative. MSH commends the panel for recognizing the importance of human rights and social justice; empowering, and ending violence and discrimination against, girls and women; good governance; and strengthening fragile states. We share these values, both as health advocates and global citizens.

MSH urges policymakers to bring the same transformation to health.

UHC places strong health leaders in a position to save more lives, combat poverty, and set a sustainable course.

To ensure progress on these priorities while strengthening health systems and promoting equity, MSH recommends that the Secretary General include UHC as a Post-2015 health target.

Our mission: Saving lives and improving the health of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people by closing the gap between knowledge and action in public health. For more information, visit www.msh.org. Contact: communications@msh.org

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