25-28 November 2019 - Geneva
All roads lead to universal health coverage—and this is our top priority at WHO. For me, the key question of universal health coverage is an ethical one. Do we want our fellow citizens to die because they are poor? Or millions of families impoverished by catastrophic health expenditures because they lack financial risk protection? Universal health coverage is a human right.
At least 400 million people have no access to essential health services, (1) and 40% of the world’s population lack social protection (2). Think about the human reality behind these numbers: the young mother who dies in childbirth in a fragile state because she lacks access to health care; a young child dropping out of school due to family impoverishment caused by health expenses; and an adult living in inner city of a middle-income country suffering from chronic non-communicable diseases and not getting treatment.
I know from personal experience that it is possible for all countries to achieve universal health coverage, including key public health interventions. The paper in this issue of The Lancet Global Health by Karin Stenberg and colleagues (3) shows that, even at low levels of national income, countries can make progress. Many countries at different levels of economic development have implemented universal health coverage, showing this to be more a political than an economic challenge.
The world has agreed on universal health coverage. Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 sets the following target by 2030: achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. How should WHO help countries to achieve universal health coverage?