WHO/World Bank ministerial meeting recognizes the health workforce as important component in moving forward on universal health coverage

Ministerial meeting on universal health coverage, Geneva, Switzerland, February 2013
WHO/C. Black
Ministerial meeting on universal health coverage, Geneva, Switzerland, February 2013

19 February 2013 GENEVA - Top officials from health and finance ministries from 27 countries joined other high-level health and development stakeholders at a two-day meeting this week in Geneva to discuss ways that countries are progressing towards universal health coverage. The meeting was convened jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank and took place a few months after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution supporting universal health coverage.

Delegates at the Geneva meeting expressed strong support for the ideas underlying universal health coverage: that everyone, irrespective of their ability to pay, should have access to the health services they need, without putting their families at financial risk.

Many speakers stressed the importance of getting political commitment to universal health coverage at the highest level. Participants agreed that human resource shortages posed a challenge, and also pointed to the need for more focus on the distribution of health workers —between rural and urban areas, and between poor and more affluent areas. As part of its advocacy efforts, and in order to secure a rightful place for HRH in the UHC; the Global Health Workforce Alliance developed a set of key messages and sent them to various stakeholders constituencies ahead of time, to raise the issue of the meeting. This is the first in a series of the UHC related events that the Alliance seeks to influence.

The meeting also discussed strategies to ensure an adequate supply of good quality and affordable essential medicines and technologies, noting the value of using financial incentives to promote efficiency and quality of health services.

The importance of monitoring progress towards universal health coverage was also a recurrent theme, as was the important role played by of researchers, civil society, and international agencies. Several delegates expressed the hope that universal health coverage would feature in the post-2015 development goals.

In response to country demand, the WHO and the World Bank are developing a monitoring framework that will help countries track their countries’ progress toward universal health coverage in a way that explicitly captures the potential importance of universal health coverage in achieving better health and higher living standards for everyone. The framework will be available for consultation with countries and other partners later this year.

Later this year, over 1500 participants from around the world are expected to attend the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Brazil, from 10-13 November 2013. The Forum will examine how to build a foundation for universal health coverage through strengthening the health workforce.