Worldwide backing for universal health coverage

24 May 19

A global call for progress towards achieving universal health coverage has been made by the decision-making body of the World Health Organization.

Member states of the international body have been urged to accelerate their efforts in the quest for universal health coverage and to focus on poor, vulnerable and marginalised people.

The resolution was one of three agreed at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva and comes in the run up to the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on universal health coverage in September this year.

Universal health care is a key objective of the WHO and has been incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals which set a target of 2030 for all UN member states to achieve this.

At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services and about 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for healthcare.

More than 800 million people – almost 12% of the world’s population – spend at least 10% of their household budgets on health care.

The resolution agreed in Geneva identified key priorities in the effort to achieve universal coverage such as health financing, building sustainable and resilient health systems, and strengthening health workforces.

Member states also emphasised  the importance of investing in and strengthening primary health care and a second resolution recognised the key role this plays in ensuring countries can support a person’s needs throughout life –  from disease prevention to palliative care.

The World Health Assembly also recognised the contribution made by community health workers to achieving universal health coverage, responding to health emergencies, and promoting healthier populations.

It urged countries to optimise their community health worker programmes, which delegates said play a key role to play in delivering primary health care by speaking local languages and enjoying the trust of local people.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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