Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people receive the quality, essential health services they need, without being exposed to financial hardship.
A significant number of countries, at all levels of development, are embracing the goal of UHC as the right thing to do for their citizens. It is a powerful social equalizer and contributes to social cohesion and stability. Every country has the potential to improve the performance of its health system in the main dimensions of UHC: coverage of quality services and financial protection for all. Priorities, strategies and implementation plans for UHC will differ from one country to another.
Moving towards UHC is a dynamic, continuous process that requires changes in response to shifting demographic, epidemiological and technological trends, as well as people’s expectations. But in all cases, countries need to integrate regular monitoring of progress towards targets into their plans.
In May 2014, the World Health Organization and the World Bank jointly launched a monitoring framework for UHC, based on broad consultation of experts from around the world. The framework focuses on indicators and targets for service coverage – including promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation – and financial protection for all. This report provides the first global assessment of the current situation and aims to show how progress towards UHC can be measured.
A majority of countries are already generating credible, comparable data on both health service and financial protection coverage. Nevertheless, there are data blind spots on key public health concerns such as the effective treatment of noncommunicable diseases, the quality of health services and coverage among the most disadvantaged populations within countries.
UHC is a critical component of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which include a specific health goal: “Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”. Within this health goal, a specific target for UHC has been proposed: “Achieve UHC, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”. In this context, the opportunity exists to unite global health and the fight against poverty through action that is focussed on clear goals. Supporting the right to health and ending extreme poverty can both be pursued through universal health coverage.