Universal health coverage

Global coalition calls for acceleration of access to universal health coverage

A new global coalition of more than 500 leading health and development organizations worldwide is urging governments to accelerate reforms that ensure everyone, everywhere, can access quality health services without being forced into poverty. The coalition emphasises the importance of universal access to health services for saving lives, ending extreme poverty, building resilience against the health effects of climate change and ending deadly epidemics such as Ebola.

Tracking universal health coverage:

A health worker vaccinates a child, India
WHO/C. Black

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.

What is universal health coverage?

The goal of universal health coverage is to ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them. This requires:

• a strong, efficient, well-run health system;
• a system for financing health services;
• access to essential medicines and technologies;
• a sufficient capacity of well-trained, motivated health workers.

Increasing country capacities for universal health coverage (UHC)

Mothers and their children wait to receive treatment, vaccines, and other care
UNICEF Guinea

September 2014 -- WHO entered into a collaborative agreement with the European Union and Luxembourg in 2011 to support policy dialogue on national health policies, strategies and plans and UHC in 19 selected countries. The Partnership aims at building country capacities for the development, negotiation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of robust and comprehensive national health policies, strategies and plans, to promote UHC, people-centered primary care, and health in all policies.

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General talking with a group of people.

“I regard universal health coverage as the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer. It is inclusive. It unifies services and delivers them in a comprehensive and integrated way, based on primary health care.”

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General


Essentials of universal health coverage