Building the world we want
Each year, on the 12th of December, the world comes together to celebrate the International Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day. United Nations established this celebration on 12 December 2017. This date marks exactly five years after the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to urge countries to accelerate progress towards achieving UHC. This year’s celebration is themed “Building the world we want: A healthy future for all”. Under this theme, we especially focus on strengthening action and upholding accountability to the promise of health for all. It comes 3 years after the adoption of the very first Political Declaration on universal health coverage (UHC). The Declaration presented the most comprehensive set of commitments ever adopted at this level.
According to the World Health Organization, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means that “all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.” It is anchored in the third Sustainable Development Goal on Good Health and Well-being. It represents an essential state that the world should strive towards fulfilling the human right to health. The world where quality, resilient and responsive health systems are equitably accessible to everyone.
UHC – a work in progress
As we celebrate this UHC Day, our aim in IFMSA is to mobilise Federation-wide action on the UHC agenda. To generate grassroots understanding on the topic. To hold leaders, our health systems and ourselves accountable to the promise of health for all. We seek to do so through building the capacities of our members on UHC and inspiring and guiding their plans on advocating for it on a national level.
Although some advancement is being made, Universal Health Coverage remains a work in progress. According to the findings of the 2019 UHC Global monitoring report, the world must double health coverage up until 2030, emphasising the need for urgent and effective action remains. To achieve UHC, it must be rolled out across the six building blocks of health systems that comprehensively address the aspects of healthcare. Those building blocks are: service delivery, health workforce, health information systems, access to essential medicines, financing, and governance.
Holding our leaders accountable
As a second UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage is scheduled to take place in September 2023, the IFMSA calls on the world’s leaders and health systems to act with a sense of urgency. In order to scale up the efforts to achieve UHC, the IFMSA believes that whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches are required. Ministries of Health and other relevant Ministries and governmental entities need to act in coordination to:
- Expand and strengthen UHC legislation and regulations, setting clear targets responsive to people’s needs;
- Increasing government spending as a fraction of total health expenditure and facilitating transparent and efficient public financial management systems;
- Invest in strengthening public health, primary health care and emergency preparedness to underpin strong, resilient and responsive health systems; and
- Include all community members in the design and implementation of social and health policies. The inclusion must take into consideration groups in vulnerable situations and marginalised groups.
Youth action for #HealthForAll
Furthermore, whole-of-society coordination in the design and implementation of Universal Health Coverage is essential.We believe that such coordination must be based on social accountability and contributing to a rights-based, gender and age-sensitive and intersectional approach. This way we can ensure that we truly leave no-one behind. As medical students we have a social responsibility to:
- Participate in, and organize grassroot-level activities to raise awareness and infrom their populations about the importance of Universal Health Coverage;
- Engage in informing government officials and policymakers on the needs of healthcare providers and local communities for the effective implementation of UHC policies, by engaging in high-level political dialogues and decision-making process and upholding decision-makers accountable for the commitments made.
Lastly, as we celebrate this Universal Health Coverage Day, we urge the world to take this chance to strengthen and scale up the implementation of UHC. Let’s act together on the UHC agenda and hold leaders, our health systems and ourselves accountable to the promise of #HealthForAll.
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