Moving towards Universal Health Coverage: Initiatives and Challenges
Mohammad Abdul Mannan
Since the 2005 resolution of World Health Assembly, universal health coverage has been increasingly seen as a central plank in the articulation of new health-sector strategies in countries. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as it is conceptualized today, ensures promotive, preventive, diagnostic and rehabilitative health services without financial hardship. UHC is one of the mechanisms of ensuring balanced development, where economic growth of a nation is accompanied by an increase in the health and well being of all persons. According to the International labour Organisation (ILO), nearly 50 countries have attained universal or near-universal coverage. The government of Bangladesh also aspires to achieve “health for all” through its Revitalized Primary Health Care initiative but it does not have a full-fledged UHC system as yet. Many of the world’s 1.3 billion people on very low incomes still do not have access to effective and affordable drugs, surgeries and other interventions because of weaknesses in the health financing system. Out-of-pocket payments create financial barriers that prevent millions of people each year from seeking and receiving needed health services. All countries have scope to raise more money for health domestically, provided governments and the people commit to doing so. World Health Report 2010 outlined three broad ways to do this, plus a fourth option for increasing development aid and making it work better for health. The world bank options are: 1) Increase the efficiency of revenue collection, 2) Reprioritize government budgets, 3) Innovative financing, 4) Development assistance for health. To achieve Universal Health Coverage long-term solution, flexible short-term responses are needed.
Health systems are consistently inequitable, providing more and higher quality services to the well-off, who need them less, than to the poor, who are unable to obtain them. In the absence of a concerted effort to ensure that health systems reach disadvantaged groups more effectively, such inequities are likely to continue . But promoting and protecting health is essential to human welfare and sustained economic and social development. This was recognized more than 30 years ago by the Alma-Ata Declaration signatories, who noted that Health for All would contribute both to a better quality of life and also to global peace and security.  As the global community gears up for the final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, an essential reinforcing movement is beginning to take root in low-income and middle-income countries and the myriad organisations that support them. This growing movement calls for the achievement of universal health coverage—as officially defined by the 58th session of the World Health Assembly in 2005 as “access to key promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health interventions for all at an affordable cost”. With implications for both health and financing, universal health coverage can improve access to health services and reduce poverty resulting from catastrophic health-care expenditures . Since the 2005 resolution, universal health coverage has been increasingly seen as a central plank in the articulation of new health-sector strategies in countries. Prioritisation of universal health coverage by countries reflects both the increasing opportunities for provision of essential health care as well as the fast-changing expectations of populations . Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as it is conceptualized today, ensures promotive, preventive, diagnostic and rehabilitative health services without financial hardship [5)]. UHC is one of the mechanisms of ensuring balanced development, where economic growth of a nation is accompanied by an increase in the health and well being of all persons. Joe Kutzin, the...
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