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Bringing Universal Health Coverage Closer to Reality: Meet the Joint Learning Network

Natalie Phaholyothin — Former Associate Director, Health Initiative, Asia Regional Office

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.8 calls for Member states to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. Realizing this ambitious goal will require both political will from national leaders and the know-how to set up or reform a national healthcare system. Governments pursuing reform must grapple with a variety of technical and policy questions such as:

What treatments and procedures should we cover or exclude?

Which drugs should we fully or partially reimburse?

Which mechanisms should we use to pay healthcare providers?

How should we calculate payments, the cost of premiums?

How can we ensure quality across the wide range of providers?

What should be the role of the private sector?

For countries currently working towards UHC, these questions are critically important. But although guiding theories and health economics models exist to inform the path to UHC, practical advice and accumulated knowledge from on-the-ground experience are not always easily accessible. This gap exists despite the reality that many countries undergo similar challenges as they roll out national insurance schemes.

In 2010, The Rockefeller Foundation responded to this challenge by supporting the establishment of the Joint Learning Network (JLN)—a sharing platform and community of practice among those actively working in-country to reform national health systems to achieve UHC. Since that time, JLN membership has grown to include 27 member countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The steady growth in membership reflects the need and enthusiasm for a space where UHC implementation questions and knowledge gaps can be addressed and answered, and where ideas can be germinated and tested jointly by countries undergoing similar experiences.

From the beginning, the core principle of the JLN has been the co-creation of knowledge, anchored in practical experience. Moreover, JLN is fundamentally about countries supporting one another, as opposed to a generic top-down model of providing technical assistance.

Over its six years of existence, in response to member countries’ interests and needs, the JLN has produced and shared numerous resources to aid in reform efforts. It has also enabled practitioners in the network to regularly draw on one another’s knowledge and experience. The unique approach of the JLN has generated interest from other funders, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and GIZ—presenting a great opportunity for the sustainability of the network.

A recent case study of the JLN documents its journey, identifies key insights that have emerged along the way, and shares some implications and considerations for the network moving forward. The Foundation hopes that sharing this resource, among others, will help to amplify the critical work and collaboration of the JLN towards achieving health for all.

For more information please contact the Foundation’s Monitoring and Evaluation team at

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