Category: Universal Health Coverage

The Global Challenge of Achieving Universal Health Coverage

The Global Challenge of Achieving Universal Health Coverage - Hope Uweja

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In an era where healthcare should be a fundamental human right, Africa is still grappling with the alarming reality that significant progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC) remains elusive. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a target to ensure that everyone has access to essential health services without facing financial hardship by 2030. However, the journey toward achieving this goal is fraught with challenges and complexities. This article delves into the reality on ground and the critical need for reorienting health systems in Africa through a a renewed emphasis on primary health care (PHC), as an approach towards making UHC a reality in Africa.


Introduction: In an era where healthcare should be a fundamental human right, Africa is still grappling with the alarming reality that significant progress toward Universal Health Coverage (UHC) remains elusive. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a target to ensure that everyone has access to essential health services without facing financial hardship by 2030. However, the journey toward achieving this goal is fraught with challenges and complexities. This article delves into the reality on ground and the critical need for reorienting health systems in Africa through a a renewed emphasis on primary health care (PHC), as an approach towards making UHC a reality in Africa. 

Understanding Universal Health Coverage: Universal Health Coverage implies that all persons within a jurisdiction, regardless of their socio-economic background, have access to quality healthcare services when and where they need them. It encompasses a wide range of essential health services, including health promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care. 

The Stagnation of Progress: Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global progress toward UHC had already begun to falter. It is true that the UHC service coverage index increased from 45 to 68 between 2000 and 2021. However, post-2015 gains have slowed, and coverage levels have stagnated at this point. The proportion of people facing catastrophic out-of-pocket health spending has been on the rise since 2000, reaching over a billion in 2019. Moreover, the pandemic further disrupted essential healthcare services in most of countries, revealing the vulnerability of health systems worldwide. 

Inequality Persists: Inequalities continue to plague the path to UHC. Even within countries that report national progress, there are often stark disparities. Essential health services, particularly for reproductive, maternal, child, and adolescent health, tend to be more accessible to the wealthier and more educated segments of the population. Additionally, catastrophic health spending is more prevalent in households within the lower income bracket and those living in rural areas. To address these inequalities, accurate data is crucial, not only in terms of financial disparities but also regarding gender, socioeconomic differences, and the unique challenges faced by marginalized populations, including refugees and indigenous communities. 

The Role of Primary Health Care (PHC): To "build back better," the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a reorientation of health systems using a primary health care (PHC) approach. This approach is hailed as the most inclusive, equitable, cost-effective, and efficient way to enhance people's physical and mental health and well-being. It emphasizes universal, integrated access to healthcare services delivered close to the people, making healthcare more accessible and affordable. 

Measuring Progress Towards UHC: UHC progress is tracked through three key indicators: the total population covered; the coverage of essential health services and the extent of financial protection involved. These indicators provide insight into a country's ability to provide necessary healthcare services without causing financial hardship to its citizens. 

Universal Health Coverage remains a fundamental goal to achieve better health and economic outcomes. However, as the world grapples with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the road to UHC is filled with hurdles. Reorienting health systems through a PHC approach is not just a recommendation; it's a necessity to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare services. Addressing inequalities and measuring progress are integral to making UHC a reality. Only through collaborative efforts and strategic policies can we work towards a future where everyone in Africa receives the healthcare they need without the fear of financial ruin. 

As we strive for UHC, it's essential for stakeholders in the healthcare sector, policymakers, and advocates to raise awareness and push for reforms that lead to better health outcomes for all. 


3 Comments

  1. Comments - Hope Uweja

    Yes Doctor! Very nice post.

  1. Comments - Hope Uweja

    Thank You Doctor.

  1. Comments - Hope Uweja

    A very good writeup that talks about the global challenges in achieving Universal Health Coverage!

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