Jeffrey Sachs and Universal Health Coverage
(Salud por Derecho) - Last week, in the framework of the General Assembly of the United Nations, The Lancet celebrated the launch of a monographic document dedicated to Universal Health Care.
In one of its articles, “Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Low Income Settings”, Jeffrey Sachs proposes that universal health coverage is an attainable goal. Sachs defines universal coverage as a basic package of health services that efficiently prioritizes the common illnesses of a community. In the case of impoverished countries, the most pressing illnesses are the infectious diseases and resulting symptoms as a consequence of poorly developed sanitation and health infrastructure, for example, diarrhea, malaria, and the perinatal and maternal deaths associated with childbirth. Furthermore Sachs demands that the western world increase their international aid donations dedicated to healthcare in the low income nations of the world because access to medical services is an innate human right.
Sachs explains that poverty is completely intertwined with the health of a community because the lack of sanitation infrastructure and education in conjunction with the lack of health services produces a situation with more risk factors of disease and less avenues of treatment. Sachs cites the Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of the World Health Organization that declare, “All of the citizens of the world have the right to a standard of living adequate for health, including medical care…”. The poor countries of the world lack the public and private funding necessary to offer these services to their citizens, but with the help of the developed world, it would be possible to provide these services at an affordable cost to those in need of treatment.
Sachs uses an economic analysis of the price of universal health coverage to demonstrate that a basic level of universal coverage is within reach. According to him, a minimal package of universal coverage would cost between $50-$60 per person. The international norm is that 15% of the health budget should come from public funds. As a result, the government of these countries would pay approximately $9 per person for universal coverage. With this logic, there is a deficit of $40-$50 that has to come from international aid. With an estimate billion people without access to basic medical services, the developed nations of the world need to donate forty billion dollars, which represents 0.1% of the GDP of these countries. Sachs also maintains that if the necessary funding was raised there are efficient ways of organizing the distribution of care utilizing a mixture of private and public financing.
The result of this economic rational is that a small investment from lot of prosperous nations would have a profound effect on the quality of life of the developing world. The figure of 40 billion dollars is an attainable goal because the first world countries of the world already donate 27 billion dollars to the health care infrastructure of the developing world. Leaders of the modern world have the responsibility to close that gap in funding to assure that the rest of the world has access to the basic resources of a just life. Health is a key aspect to be able to achieve this.