Health systems

Universal health coverage


Good health is essential to sustained economic and social development and poverty reduction. Access to needed health services is crucial for maintaining and improving health. At the same time, people need to be protected from being pushed into poverty because of the cost of health care.

Universal health coverage is defined as ensuring that all people have access to needed promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that people do not suffer financial hardship when paying for these services. Universal health coverage has therefore become a major goal for health reform in many countries and a priority objective of WHO.

Other Media

Universal health coverage embodies three related objectives:

  • equity in access to health services - those who need the services should get them, not only those who can pay for them;
  • that the quality of health services is good enough to improve the health of those receiving services; and
  • financial-risk protection - ensuring that the cost of using care does not put people at risk of financial hardship.

Health systems

A well-functioning health system
working in harmony is built on having
trained and motivated health
workers, a well-maintained infrastructure,
and a reliable supply of medicines
and technologies, backed by adequate
funding, strong health plans and
evidence-based policies.


Dr Marie-Paule Kieny
Assistant Director-General
Health Systems and Innovation (HIS)
World Health Organization