Universal health coverage (UHC) is a crucial element in achieving the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and promoting equity and shared prosperity. It entails providing access to essential healthcare services without causing financial hardship to individuals. UHC is not only a fundamental human right but also a key driver of economic growth and development. In this article, we will explore the global movement towards UHC, the importance of affordable primary healthcare, the challenges in maternal and child health, the impact of mental health on UHC, and the mobilization of resources for UHC.
The Global Movement towards UHC
UHC has gained global momentum, with increasing recognition of its significance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 3.8 specifically aims to achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection and access to quality essential healthcare services for all. Without UHC, the goal of ending poverty in all its forms could be in peril, as millions of people are pushed into poverty due to healthcare expenses. The first-ever UN High-Level Meeting on UHC in 2019 and the adoption of a Political Declaration by member states further highlight the global commitment towards UHC. Additionally, the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All was launched to support countries in delivering on the SDG3 targets.
Providing Affordable, Quality Primary Healthcare
Access to affordable and quality primary healthcare is the cornerstone of UHC. However, despite the progress made, many people worldwide still struggle to fulfill their basic healthcare needs. Maternal and child mortality rates remain high, particularly in developing regions. The Global Financing Facility (GFF), established in 2015, aims to improve maternal, child, and adolescent health services in collaboration with partners. Investing in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH) is crucial for achieving UHC and reducing mortality rates. Challenges such as high fertility rates, adolescent fertility, and mental health disorders need to be addressed to ensure comprehensive primary healthcare for all.
Maternal mortality is a significant challenge in developing regions, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The majority of maternal deaths are preventable with timely access to healthcare. Improving access to maternal healthcare services is crucial for reducing maternal mortality rates and ensuring UHC.
While child mortality rates have decreased globally, there are still significant disparities, with higher rates in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to high-income countries. Addressing child mortality requires a comprehensive approach, including improved healthcare access, nutrition, and sanitation.
Although global fertility rates have decreased, some countries still experience persistently high fertility rates. These countries face a higher burden of maternal, infant, and child mortality. Access to family planning services is crucial in reducing high fertility rates and improving maternal and child health outcomes.
Adolescent fertility rates are higher in countries with high overall fertility rates. Adolescent mothers face increased risks during pregnancy and childbirth, leading to higher maternal and child mortality rates. Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education and services are essential in addressing adolescent fertility and improving health outcomes.
Mental health is often overlooked but is a critical component of UHC. Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (MNS) are highly prevalent and associated with significant mortality and economic losses. Integrating mental health programs into primary healthcare and providing financial protection for mental health services are essential for achieving UHC.
The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Mental Health
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health conditions globally. Factors such as anxiety, job losses, and disrupted mental health services have contributed to an increase in mental health disorders. Access to mental healthcare has become even more crucial during the pandemic, highlighting the need for integrating mental health services into UHC.
Mobilizing Resources for UHC
Achieving UHC requires adequate financing and resource mobilization. People in developing countries often bear a significant financial burden for accessing healthcare. Increasing spending on primary healthcare is essential to bridge coverage gaps and meet the health targets outlined in the SDGs. Without sufficient investment in healthcare, countries face challenges in closing the gap between health spending demand and available resources.
Universal health coverage is a vital component in achieving global health goals and promoting economic growth and development. It requires a comprehensive approach, including affordable and quality primary healthcare, addressing maternal and child health challenges, integrating mental health services, and mobilizing resources. By working towards UHC, countries can ensure that everyone has access to the healthcare they need without suffering financial hardship, thereby improving human capital outcomes and promoting shared prosperity.
Keywords: universal health coverage, UHC, primary healthcare, maternal mortality, child mortality, high fertility, adolescent fertility, mental health, Covid-19 pandemic, resource mobilization.