Universal Health Coverage Gaining Momentum into 2013

Universal Health Coverage Gaining Momentum into 2013

A Rwandese woman shows her child's community-based health insurance card. {Photo credit: C. T. Ngoc/MSH.}Photo credit: C. T. Ngoc/MSH.

Last week, the 67th United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution that emphasizes universal health coverage (UHC) in the global health and foreign policy work of the UN and Member States in the coming year.

MSH hailed the resolution as “a decisive step in the fight against health inequity and poverty.” Jeanette Vega of the Rockfeller Foundation said the passage “shines a light on the 150 million people worldwide that face catastrophic healthcare expenditures” and that the “world demonstrated that UHC is becoming the most important and relevant topic in the global health sector.” Annick Jeantet of Action for Global Health said, “Overall the merit of this resolution is to highlight how health is an important cross-cutting issue in the international development agenda as well as a precondition, an outcome and an indicator of all three dimensions of sustainable development."

The resolution calls on the UN to commit to continued consultations on how best to promote UHC at the national, regional, and global levels and recognizes that “effective and financially sustainable implementation of UHC is based on a resilient and responsive health system that provides comprehensive primary health-care services with extensive geographical coverage and has and adequate skilled, well-trained and motivated workforce.”

The resolution also encourages Member States to convene a High Level Meeting on UHC and requests that the UN Secretary General submit to the General Assembly at its 68th session, a report which compiles and analyzes past and current experiences of Member States in ways that they have succeeded in implementing universal health coverage.

UHC in the Post-MDG Framework

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have played a significant role in galvanizing investment in health and set ambitious but achievable targets to tackle global health issues vital to the well-being of people worldwide.

MSH CEO Dr. Jonathan Quick said last week, “As UN Member States are coming together in 2013 to shape the global development agenda for the next 15 years, this resolution sends a clear message that UHC is essential to achieving the right to health and is a key component of the post-MDGs Framework.”

MSH believes that the right to health should be realized and measured by the four essential principles of UHC: services must be available in sufficient quantity; accessible to all; affordable without causing hardship; and of appropriate quality.

In a statement submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO) Post-2015 health consultation last week, MSH recommends universal health coverage as the overarching post-MDGs health goal along with key provisions for equity and measurable targets to improve health and deliver effective and sustainable solutions. Human rights should underpin the new MDGs framework.

Barbara Ayotte is MSH's director of strategic communications.

What do you think?

  • What do you think about the UN resolution on UHC?
  • What should be the health goal(s) for the Post-MDGs framework?
Tell us in the comments.
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Ikenyei Uche
The global drive for UHC is a wake up call to all of us and should be encouraged at all levels from the global to the local government, this will make the world a better place to live in if everyone has access to UHC with minimal cost to the household. I think that the UHC concept comes with a lot of learning from countries that have demonstrated measurable successes to countries where the need is clearly high but with no capacity to implement to the point of success. Capacity building, skill transfer and strong government commitment can make a lot of difference within a short time.
Barbara Crane
Universal health coverage initially sounds appealing as the basis for post-2015 health goals. It risks taking the focus off of the health outcomes that are desired, such as improved maternal health and reductions in maternal mortality. The social and policy determinants of these health outcomes also need to be addressed in policies and programs, not just expansion of health services.
Julia Ouko
It's the next 'in-thing' for healthcare. UHC is right on time and apt like apples of gold on settings of silver!
Danielle Doughman
While I am certainly not opposed to the goal of universal health coverage, I'm not yet convinced it's the right umbrella goal for the post-2015 MDGs. UHC is a tool to get to what we want -- improved health for all, including the hardest to reach. The goal might better be expressed as increased life expectancy, though the danger there is that globally aggregated goals could mask dramatic inequalities in the poorest quintile. No matter how we name the overarching health goal in the post-2015 framework, we MUST select the right measures, with an eye to equity. What gets measured, gets done.
David Egilman M...
Like most Western AID ideas this provides the correct answer to the wrong question. What is needed is good health not medical care or worse a diversion of resources form the things that produce both good care and good health. These are of course education number 1, food and water, and adequate sanitation. You want to petition for the right to adequate appropriate food, water, sanitation and education and you have something.
Francisco Oviedo
I agree with some of the comments above in the sense that UHC per se is not a final goal especially if UHC is considered as access for everybody but only to some basic medical care. Protecting and improving people's health with a holistic approach should be the main focus to the post2015 new goals, together with the elimination of any barriers (social, economic, cultural, geographical, etc.) that affects people's right to health (not only access to health services). Otherwise we may face the same problem we had with the previous goals that it was interpreted that since the goals spoke about child and maternal health care all the actions should be focussed only on developing projects and services to promote antenatal care and safe delivery and they were overlooked all the social determinants that cause most of the maternal and child’s deaths. Actually child and maternal death rates were selected ad MDG indicators since they are not just health indicator but development indicators Summarizing from my point of view the key for the new process of post-2015 MDG is not having only 2 o 3 specific “health related” goals, but to insert health and the roll of health system in each one of all the goals that will be defined with a holistic approach based on the theory of social determinants.

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