Universal Health Coverage

Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General said: I regard Universal Health Coverage as the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer. It is inclusive. It unifies services and delivers them in a comprehensive and integrated way, based on primary health care.

On December 12th 2016, we are celebrating the third Universal Health Coverage Day. More than 750 organizations, amongst which IFMSA, join effort to call for greater action and progress on delivering Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

UHC means that every person has access to quality health services without financial hardship.

It is about health equity, because everybody has the right to health and should be able to access health services including promotion to make healthy choices, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. It is about quality care, and everybody is getting the care they need providing by well-trained health workers. And it is about making sure that everybody receives care, free from financial risk.

Countries worldwide committed to UHC. On 12 December 2012, the United Nations unanimously endorsed a historic resolution urging all countries to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage as an essential priority for international development. In September 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) got adopted in which UHC is a target is goal 3: Achieve universal health coverage, 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.

Reference: goo.gl/iXIpXU

We, IFMSA, welcome the progress made to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

Countries implementing Universal Health Coverage see the benefits: healthier communities and stronger economies. Success stories prove again Universal Health Coverage is achievable and all countries can improve their coverage status.

To give some examples, in Argentina, more than one million previously uninsured pregnant women and children now have basic health insurance and secure access to services. In Mexico, coverage under public health insurance increased from 48% in 2008 to 72% in 2012[2]

Yet, we still live in a world where 400 million people lack access to one or more essential health services worldwide. Amongst the people who have access to health services, every year 100 million people are pushed into poverty, and 150 million people suffer financial catastrophes because of out-of-pocket expenditure on health services. And that while globally, 20?40% of resources spent on health are wasted[3]

Reference: goo.gl/iXIpXU

Health equity is one of the core values of medical professionals as health is a human right which is non negotiable, for every person without discrimination on age, race, religion, gender or any other form of discrimination; no matter in which country or urban or rural you live, it is important that the health services fulfill the actual health needs of the population.

We shouldnt overlook the potential of primary healthcare in UHC and its role in strengthening health systems. Primary healthcare can link those concerned with population health and those who are delivering healthcare to individuals. While medicine becomes more specialty-oriented, primary healthcare, strengthened by family medicine, focuses on the patient as a whole during the entire life course. It has a strong humane and personal character and because it is community based and delivers continuous care, it is inclusive[5]. We can say it both serves as the backbone of the health system and is the link between population health and specialized health care. At the same time Primary health care can cover 90% of health needs and has a major potential in UHC[6].

As long as we live in a world where we fail to fulfill all humans with their right to health, major progress stays out, we, as future health workforce need to do our share in the commitment to do more and come up with innovative and creative solutions to ensure Universal Health Coverage.

The National Member Organizations of IFMSA are leading numerous initiatives positively impact the communities they serve. Over the last days, IFMSA created awareness around UHC and shared knowledge on the topic amongst medical students. We welcome medical students to critically look whether Universal Health Coverage is achieved in their country and the communities they serve, which improvements should be made and to join the Universal Health Coverage Day campaign.

This video we made two years about UHC and let you inspire of what your colleagues around the world have to say about UHC. You can watch the video here.

What can you do?
Join us today in the campaign to address this major opportunity for public health, take a stance and share which challenges you or your communities face. At this website you find loads of ideas how you can be involved and prepared materials for online campaigns.


For the ones who more continuously want to work on strengthening UHC within their country either by addressing this issue within their government, participate in decisions around UHC, activities aiming to increase access to quality care or want to give workshops on the topic, please contact the Program Coordinator on Health Systems via: [email protected].

Join us to make UHC reality!

Lisanne Veling
Program Coordinator on Health Systems

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