Laos targets universal health coverage by 2025

17 Nov 20

Improving the quality and coverage of health services targeting vulnerable people through an internationally backed project will help Laos achieve universal coverage within five years, officials have said.

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Bridge in Laos

Bridge in Laos. Credit: istock

Health and nutrition services that care for women, children, people in hard-to-reach areas and other underserved demographic groups will receive funding through the project.

The work is being financed by the World Bank, the Australian government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“This project will help the government address the persistent problem of access to poor quality of health and nutrition services,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank country director for Laos.

“These issues are most felt by women and the poor, and the difficulty of accessing and paying for health services contributes to inequity in health and nutrition.”

Laos has made “significant improvements” to its health and nutrition services in recent years, the World Bank said, but maternal mortality and chronic undernutrition rates among children are among some of the highest in the region.

It also faces a concentrated HIV epidemic and a high rate of TB.

The government hopes to achieve universal health coverage, ensuring all people have access to quality health services without suffering financial hardship, by 2025.

In 2016 the country introduced a national health insurance system, meaning every Laotian citizen can access treatment at public health facilities in all 17 provinces for small payments, with the poorest people, pregnant women, young children and monks exempted from these payments.

Awareness of the NHI system remains limited, however, and in remote rural areas even the cost of travelling to the nearest facility can be a major barrier to access.

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