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Achieving Universal Health Coverage – what can the UK do? (Politics Home)

11 December 2015

This article was originally published on Politics Home.

As UHC Day 2015 approaches, Malaria Consortium calls on the UK Government to show its commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage

Saturday 12th December will mark the second global Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, when more than 600 partner organisations, from over 100 countries, will call for policy makers around the world to commit to achieving UHC.

Currently 400 million people worldwide lack essential health services, predominately the poorest and most vulnerable. Every year, 100 million people fall into poverty due to unaffordable health expenditure. It is now widely accepted that improving public health underpins progress towards defeating poverty, reducing inequality and promoting economic development. As the Ebola crisis demonstrated, disease outbreaks and weak health systems can even threaten the social stability of countries.

UHC is defined as providing a basic package of health services, in an equitable way and to every person in society, without causing financial hardship. There is no one-size fits-all approach to UHC. Which health services are considered part of a ‘universal’ package, and how fair and equal access and financial risk-protection is guaranteed, will differ from country to country.

However, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and childhood illnesses continue to be some of the main causes of illness and mortality in the developing world, and malaria alone can account for up to 40 percent of public health expenditure in some countries. Therefore for UHC to be achieved, disease-focused interventions must be included in a basic package of healthcare.

In the recently-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals, UHC comprises one of the crucial aspects of SDG 3 (health goal) – ensuring healthy lives for all. UHC has the potential to unify and bring harmony to what is sometimes a disjointed and fragmented health agenda. With its focus on equity and financial risk-protection, UHC represents the embodiment of the SDG mantra, ‘leave no-one behind’.

The UK has a strong track-record of investing in global health – and is the largest national donor to global health after the US, spending US$3.5 billion in 2013. As well as this significant financial commitment, the UK has established world-leading research institutions and pharmaceutical companies, one of the most developed NGO sectors, and extensive knowledge and expertise gained from managing the National Health Service, all of which provide an excellent comparative advantage in the field of health.

The UK is therefore well-placed to take a leading role in funding, promoting and achieving UHC in the SDG era. We urge the Government to continue its commendable financing of global health, and to use its position to encourage other donor countries to match both the UK’s allocation of 0.7 percent GNI to aid and 0.1 percent GNI to global health.

The UK’s Health System Strengthening Framework is due to be published in response to an International Development Committee inquiry, which we hope will outline a comprehensive plan for the UK’s investment in strengthening the health systems of developing countries, and thereby contributing to achieving UHC.

Malaria Consortium have recently published a short brief that explains in more detail the importance of achieving UHC, its link to the fight against malaria and other illnesses, and recommendations for policy makers in the UK and developing countries.

UHC will only be considered to have been achieved if it is truly universal – with the poorest and most vulnerable able to access essential health services, without incurring costs that push them into poverty. Of the many objectives of the SDGs, few embody the spirit of ‘leave no one behind’ like realising UHC.

To mark the occasion of UHC Day in the UK, Action for Global Health, a network of development and health organisations including Malaria Consortium, are hosting an event in the Jubilee Rooms of Parliament from 2-4pm on 15th December. We encourage parliamentarians to attend and discover the types of interventions that contribute to achieving UHC.

Keywords: Advocacy and policy


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