By Sarah Alkenbrack, PhD Senior Health Economist, Health Policy Project
WASHINGTON, DC—Last week, as thousands of people gathered in Washington to admire the cherry blossoms, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank held their annual spring meetings. A key event of the meetings, co-hosted by the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO), was titled “Universal Health Coverage by 2030,” and it was described by one of the meeting’s panelists as the “most important meeting in town.”
Focusing Efforts and Ensuring Results
While simply building a national health research program is a quantum leap in the right direction, beginning research is only just that—the beginning. Implementing mechanisms to sustain research is necessary to ensure the quality of data gathered and the applicability of the conclusions derived from it. This should be accomplished through such strategies as translating evidence into practice, monitoring and evaluation, and joint learning, methods essential to the success of both research and universal health coverage in a greater sense.
Dr. Rony Zachariah, Coordinator of Operational Research and Strategic Advisor at Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-Brussels Operational Center expands on the first of these, explaining how its’ taken for granted that research will simply lead to solution-based action. In reality, he says “research is often ‘divorced from implementation,’ as evidenced by the huge gap between what we know from research and what we do with this knowledge.
Making the Case for Investment
Public health is expensive and financing it a hurdle in itself, but disproportionate focus on how to pay for better health systems prevents UHC proponents from learning how to create them in the first place.
As the global community works vigorously to make the world a better place by 2015, countries with a growing commitment to UHC are working to expand access to needed health services. Dubbed by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Dr. Margaret Chan as “the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer,” achieving UHC is no task for the faint of heart. But why? What challenges must be overcome to successfully implement UHC?
With insight provided by public health experts from across the globe, UHC Forward has set out to enumerate the factors essential to UHC.
UHC Forward will merge with the Joint Learning Network to make information on the global movement towards universal health coverage more accessible
Many countries are pursuing UHC to increase access to quality essential health care without financial hardship. For countries to achieve progress, it is critical that they have access to evidence about what works and how other countries are making progress.
To address this critical challenge, in July 2014 the Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage (JLN) and UHC Forward will merge web platforms and launch a new website under the JLN brand to serve as a one-stop portal for practical guides and tools that focus on the ‘how to’ of achieving UHC as well as information related to the global movement towards UHC.
Launching a Robust Global Knowledge Hub
The new web hub will bring together the best features of both sites to create a robust hub for UHC knowledge from around the globe.
The Millennium Development Goals, due to expire next year, have defined an era of global health. Since their adoption in 2000, the global AIDS response has scaled up massively; childhood immunization has become the norm in most settings; and many more women can access the family planning and reproductive healthcare they need. The MDGs coincided with, and perhaps helped to usher, a “Golden Age” of global health funding, which supported hard work and innovation that saved millions of lives.
And yet, signals emerged that the rapid scaleup was leaving people behind. Health inequalities continued to grow, both within and across countries. Advances in child survival and maternal care left a concentration of deaths in the poorest regions, with persistent gaps in access.
With the recent 35th anniversary of the seminal 1978 Alma Ata declaration calling on the world to launch and sustain primary health care (PHC) as part of a comprehensive national health system, and the ongoing focus on universal health coverage (UHC) as a possible post-2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the question emerges of how these two parallel global movements can support each other to deliver on the ultimate goal of providing universal access to essential health services with financial protection.
Although both the PHC and UHC movements have been recognized as vitally important to health and human development, the goals of PHC and UHC activities have often worked independently of each other, and sometimes even in conflict.
(This blog is cross-posted from Results for Development): This is the second installment of “Health 2015,” a series of conversations with R4D experts helping to shape the dialogue around the post-2015 development agenda. The recent Global Health 2035 report published by the Lancet Commission that was covered in our last conversation with vaccine finance expert Helen Saxenian, also outlines a pro-poor pathway to achieving universal health coverage, termed ‘progressive universalism.’
Not all pathways to universal health coverage are created equal.
By Dr. Cynthia Bannerman, Deputy Director Quality Assurance, Ghana Health Service
(This blog is cross-posted from The Joint Learning Network with permission) - Fraud, abuse and unofficial payments are threats to the sustainability of health insurance schemes. Over the last two years, Ghana’s National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has recouped 18 Million Ghana Cedis ($7.4 Million USD) charged through fraudulent claims by service providers.
We know that fraud and abuse are not unique to Ghana, and can never be completely eliminated. However, interventions must be put in place to prevent and reduce their occurrence.
Monitoring Progress towards Universal Health Coverage at Country and Global Levels: A Framework
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank seek feedback on the proposed UHC monitoring framework from countries, development partners, civil society, academics, and other interested stakeholders. This feedback will inform the further development and refinement of a common framework for monitoring progress towards UHC at country and global levels.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement across the globe for universal health coverage (UHC) – ensuring that everyone who needs health services is able to get them, without undue financial hardship. This has led to a sharp increase in the demand for expertise, evidence, and measures of progress towards UHC and a push for UHC as one of the possible goals of the post-2015 development agenda.