This piece was first published on Medium.
Around the world, an estimated 400 million people lack access to basic health services, and millions more are driven into poverty because of high out-of-pocket healthcare costs. For those of us who can count on health insurance or the private resources to cover gaps in coverage when unexpected personal or family health crises hit, it’s difficult to imagine the stress and hopelessness that people face when unable to help loved ones cope with either acute episodes or chronic conditions — or have to choose between paying for healthcare and paying for other necessities of daily life. Universal health coverage (UHC) strives to address this challenge, protecting people from financial hardship that can result from seeking health services. Furthermore, UHC includes improving the quality of health care and addressing health inequities that result from geographic location, economic disparities and gender.
The inclusion of UHC in the Sustainable Development Goals was a significant milestone because it marked the political commitment necessary to move the needle on UHC, a vision first articulated in the Alma Ata Declaration nearly 40 years ago. However, realizing UHC will be no small feat, and each country must chart its own course to do so. More than 100 countries already have. While countries will continue to lead this process, responding to the unique mix of social, economic, environmental and political factors that affect the health of their populations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, donors, NGOs, faith-based organizations, companies and other partners play an important role in supporting these efforts through policies, programs, research and partnerships. The public sector alone cannot achieve universal health coverage: what’s required is a “whole-of-society” approach, using all available public and private resources to create mixed health systems that can realize the promise of UHC.
Read the full blog here.