Improving Health through Universal Health Coverage
Today is Universal Health Coverage Day. Universal health coverage (UHC) means that we can access health services we need without suffering undue financial hardship or discrimination. UHC is embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Too often, a lack of affordable and quality health care can trap families and nations in cycles of poverty. UHC can ensure that no one has to risk financial ruin in order to access health care.
Having said that, what does UHC mean for you? Here’s
Xiaopeng is a teenage boy struggling with poor health. There are no health clinics in the rural area where he lives, and his family can’t afford his medicine or to send him to the big hospital in the city. His family is struggling with the financial burden of his medical costs and he has missed a lot of school. As a result, he doesn't know how to read or write much beyond a basic level.
To be healthy and productive people need access to affordable good quality health services, which is why countries all around the world are committing to Universal Health Coverage.
UHC tries to answer three questions:
First, does a country's health system reach every person?
Second, can all people, rich, poor, those in urban or those in rural areas, access prevention and treatment services that are of good quality?
And finally, can every person afford health care without facing poverty?
To achieve UHC we need resilient and sustainable health systems.
A health system is like putting together a puzzle. It is made of many different pieces that must all fit together to make a complete picture. One piece is the government health authorities, ensuring health resources are where they are needed and that everyone knows where to go to get them. Political leaders are a piece of the puzzle, making sure government departments are working together to make sure all the pieces fit together in the right place. Healthcare providers, who are well trained and can provide high-quality services, are a critically important piece and finally, the most important piece of the puzzle, are the people.
If the puzzle has been put together correctly, everyone benefits.
Which brings us back to Xiaopeng. Even though he lives in a rural environment, the local government has now set up a community health facility nearby. With better access to medicines through expanded medical insurance, now he can get the medication he needs and has learnt how to manage his illness. Today Xiaoping has a happy, healthy family and has become a productive member of his community.
After all, health is the precondition for development.