What is universal coverage?
WHO Reference Guide for the development of a national health financing strategy
31 March 2017 - Many countries are developing or refining their health financing policies, in an effort to strengthen their health systems and in turn to make real progress towards UHC. This Reference Guide to writing a national health financing strategy brings together many years of WHO’s involvement in the development of health financing policy with its member states. The publication builds on, and should be read together with, earlier guidance on how to conduct a health system performance analysis from the perspective of health financing policy. Whilst not prescribing a particular process, or set of health financing arrangements, this Reference Guide outlines guiding principles, and key issues to address in order to develop comprehensive health financing policy.
Data Portal on universal health coverage launched
January 2017 – WHO has launched a new data portal to track progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) around the world. The portal features the latest data on access to health services globally and for each of WHO’s 194 Member States, along with an assessment of equity in access. Information is provided for tracer indicators, with country profiles showing trends over time. During 2017, the latest data on the impact that paying for health services has on household finances will be added. The portal highlights areas of high unmet need in countries, and also shows where information needs to be improved.
12 December 2016 – Read the latest commentary on UHC by Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, and Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Director-General of WHO and Deputy Chair of the Elders. Here is an extract: "Achieving UHC and the other health-related SDG targets isn’t just about spending more money. Governments need to ensure these resources are used efficiently and fairly to scale-up the supply of quality health services for everyone, with enough well-trained and motivated health workers, and to transform health systems to address the needs of people, not diseases. Health systems that achieve this don’t just have better health outcomes; they also save money for individuals, households and entire countries."
On 12 December 2016, we celebrated UHC Day with an event in Geneva. The event featured Prof. Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Thailand’s Minister of Public Health, as well speakers from WHO, the World Bank Group, Save the Children, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, in addition to representatives of Sierra Leone, Chile, Australia and the private sector, to share their perspectives on UHC.
This report is the first of its kind to measure health service coverage and financial protection to assess countries’ progress towards universal health coverage.
It shows that at least 400 million people do not have access to one or more essential health services and 6% of people in low- and middle-income countries are tipped into or pushed further into extreme poverty because of health spending.
Universal health coverage and health financing
Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
This definition of UHC embodies three related objectives:
1. Equity in access to health services - everyone who needs services should get them, not only those who can pay for them;
2. The quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving services; and
3. People should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put people at risk of financial harm.
UHC is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948 declaring health a fundamental human right and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma Ata declaration in 1978. UHC cuts across all of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and brings hope of better health and protection for the world’s poorest.
Resolutions and strategies
Quick facts on universal coverage
Anything goes on the path to universal health coverage? No.
- Health in 2015: from MDGs to SDGs
- Raising revenues for health in support of UHC: strategic issues for policy makers
Sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage
- Making UHC progress through efficiency gains
- Reforms for improving the efficiency of health systems: lessons from 10 country cases