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Universal Health Coverage Relevant for All Countries

This blog post is part of a series by the authors of the recent report, “Universal Health Coverage: A Commitment to Close the Gap.” The report— a collaborative effort from The Rockefeller Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF, and WHO — focuses on how and why inequity should be prioritized as countries progress on the path towards UHC.

Following the launch of Universal Health Coverage: A Commitment to Close the Gap during the opening of the United Nations’ General Assembly, two things seem most significant for the post-2015 development agenda moving forward.

1) The report is not only the first time that WHO and UNICEF have issued a joint perspective on universal health coverage (UHC) and equity, but it is the first major report for a global civil society group — namely Save the Children — on UHC. The report led Save the Children UK’s CEO to write in an editorial for the Lancet, “Inaction on health financing and UHC is no longer an option. The evidence is clear and the transformative potential of UHC must be seized.” This report also has contributed to the emergence of a global movement for universal health coverage uniting leading civil society groups like Oxfam, Medicins du Monde, Ghana’s Universal Access to Healthcare Campaign Coalition and many others.

2) Countries will set and determine the post-2015 framework. There is still a long way to go until 2015 when the new development agenda will be formally agreed; however, this September showed first and foremost that countries and national delegations in New York will drive and shape the post-2015 development agenda. The outcome document notably stated (italics added), “Recognising the intrinsic interlinkage between poverty eradication and promotion of sustainable development, we underline the need for a coherent approach which integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development. This coherent approach involves working towards a single framework and set of Goals —universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies and priorities.”

This emphasis on finding a framework and set of goals for all countries bodes well for UHC. There is widespread country commitment to UHC. As illustrated by the broad support for the 2012 UN resolution, UHC is a goal relevant for all countries. Not only did Japan, France and Thailand co-sponsor the report launch, but during the United Nations General Assembly Japan — along with Botswana, France, Kenya and Mexico — hosted an event presided over by the Japanese Prime Minister focused on the importance of enshrining UHC in the post-2015 development agenda. This, on top of the recent statement from the Foreign Policy and Global Health Group committing Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, South Africa, and Thailand, led global health expert Laurie Garrett to tweet:

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