The shouts for making universal health coverage a top priority for health systems have grown louder in recent years and more organizations have joined the chorus. In December of last year, the United Nations adopted a resolution on the promotion of universal health coverage throughout the world. The resolution called for national governments to urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality health-care services. The Management Sciences for Health (MSH), an international non-profit organization that works to improve health systems around the globe, has also made universal health coverage one of their major initiatives. MSH notes that 15 global civil society organizations have signed a statement urging the United Nations to include universal health coverage as part of the Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals agenda. This begs the question; why the sudden interest in universal health coverage?
For a while now, the primary focus of health care in developing countries has been on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB. According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), funding through Global Health Initiatives (GHI), has accounted for 23% of external financing for HIV, 57% for tuberculosis, and 60% for malaria. Funding tied to disease-specific goals have often had incredibly successful outcomes in curbing those targeted diseases. However, in developing countries, primary care, maternal care, and vaccines have often fallen to the wayside because so much of the funding has been earmarked for those specific diseases.
It should come as no surprise that health outcomes are tied to income. As income inequality grows, so do the health disparities. A study published by the British Medical Journal researched the links between income inequality and health outcomes and found that upwards of 1.5 million deaths could be averted in 30 OECD countries” by reducing the gap in income disparities. With income inequality rising across the developed world, the push for equitable access to health care has also grown. These new priorities for universal health coverage must not be ignored. Fair and equal access to health services should always be the ultimate goal of every health system.