I remember standing on First Street NE my first week in Washington, DC, with the Supreme Court ahead of me and the US Capitol behind. I felt proud to be in the presence of such august institutions. But on Monday, as I sat in my office at the National Health Insurance Authority in Ghana – the government agency responsible for financing the health coverage of millions of Ghanaians – I felt pretty disappointed by the people in both those buildings in Washington.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan stated in 2012 that Universal Health Coverage is “the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer”. In Great Britain we are used to free health care services provided by the National Health Service (NHS) and we sometimes forget that in developing countries especially, the use of health care services still remains a privilege. The aim of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is to “ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.” The important key words in this definition are “all people”.
In many low- and middle- income countries, informal sector populations are turning to mobile money for sending and receiving payments. Mobile payment platforms enable greater access to basic financial services for unbanked populations, typically poor and informal sector workers in hard to reach areas.
Healthcare enthusiasts gathered in New York on Thursday to discuss women’s health services and gender inequality as a part of the universal health coverage (UHC) movement. The event, “Improving Women’s Health through Universal Health Coverage,” drew upon issues such as accessibility to and the financing of women’s health services, including reproductive care, family planning, and maternal health services. The speakers and audience cited the central need for increased funding, women’s education, and shared knowledge to better address women’s health in UHC.
Jonathan Quick, President and CEO of Management Sciences for Health (MSH), the hosting organization, stated that “we have far more to celebrate than to lament” in UHC progress, but that contrary to popular belief many women today die of preventable diseases, like breast or cervical cancer.
That was a remarkable experience. Once a year, the World Health Assembly brings together WHO representatives from almost every country on Earth, and this May I was asked to present to a session that looked at Health Technology Assessments from around the world. On the panel with me were representatives from the WHO, and from Iran, Ethiopia, and Thailand – among others – and the presentations absolutely highlighted the fact that every country in the world is facing the same problems.
After all, very few things matter more in life than health. We owe it to all our citizens – and we particularly owe it to those who are most disadvantaged and who have the least. In healthcare we often talk of the inverse care law – a law first described by a Welsh Family Doctor and which says that the availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need for it in the population served, and a major reason why Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is so vitally important.
This post is co-authored by Stefan Nachuk
In a previous post, I wrote about the Seven Things You Should Know About Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Here's another post digging deeper into the "how to" of making reforms happen, which list considerations critical to the planning, implementation, and measurement of UHC.
Over the past four years, the Joint Learning Network (JLN) partners have experimented with a number of different approaches to build community, learn, and share practical knowledge between countries. One signature approach of the JLN community is “knowledge co-production,” a blend of structured and unstructured approaches that enables a learning community to identify the best ways to develop and share relevant knowledge.
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.