The Global Health Workforce Alliance welcomes the adoption of Resolution on Universal health Coverage

General Assembly 2012
UN Photo/Mark Garten

The United Nations General Assembly, yesterday, voted in favour of a draft resolution supporting universal health coverage (UHC), signalling the importance of universal healthcare to the international development agenda.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines universal health coverage as "securing access to adequate healthcare for all at an affordable price", and the idea has been gaining ground in recent years. Universal health coverage received a big boost with the publication in 2010 of the WHO's report Health systems financing: the path to universal coverage, which led to more than 60 middle- and low-income countries requesting technical assistance and advice to move towards universal health coverage.

The resolution, which was first proposed by the Foreign Policy and Global Health group in September 2012, was backed by over 70 countries, including the USA and the UK. The resolution reaffirmed the holding in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that access to health care is a human right owed to all persons and, from that, concluded that member states should provide health care to all of their citizens. The adoption of this resolution will keep up momentum for a global commitment to ensure universal access to health care without the fear of falling into poverty. The adopted resolution paves the way for the post-2015 development agenda to include universal health coverage.

The Resolution includes reference to the health workforce required in support of UHC:

"Also recognizes that effective and financially sustainable implementation of universal health coverage is based on a resilient and responsive health system that provides comprehensive primary health-care services, with extensive geographical coverage, including in remote and rural areas, and with a special emphasis on access to populations most in need, and has an adequate skilled, well-trained and motivated workforce, as well as capacities for broad public health measures, health protection and addressing determinants of health through policies across sectors, including promoting the health literacy of the population".

"This is a very significant milestone and we welcome the fact that the resolution recognizes the importance of health workers for achieving UHC", said Dr Mubashar Sheikh, Executive Director of the Alliance. "Countries will now be required to put in practice the reforms needed and scale up efforts of making quality health services a reality. An investment in health personnel must be seen as an important priority in this context”.

The Alliance has recently renewed its efforts through a new strategy for 2013-2016, to advance the health workforce agenda with the UHC paradigm. In accordance with the new strategy, the Alliance will convene the 3rd Global Forum on Human Resources for Health around the theme of HRH and Universal Health Coverage. The forum which takes place from 10-13 November 2013 in Recife, Brazil, will provide an opportunity to explore health workforce issues from the perspective of how they influence the coverage of essential interventions and health services, and to identify what changes in health workforce investment, production, deployment and retention are required to achieve universal health coverage.