12 JUNE 2015 – More countries than ever before are embracing universal health coverage – quality health care without financial hardship – as a path for eradicating extreme poverty, helping societies thrive and building more resilient health systems. More than 100 low- and middle-income countries, home to three-quarters of the world’s population, have taken steps to deliver universal health coverage and reap the economic and human benefits that come with it.
Closing gaps in access to health care is an urgent priority. According to a new global progress report released today by the World Health Organization and the World Bank Group and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, 400 million people lack access to one or more of seven lifesaving health services, including childhood immunization, malaria control, HIV/AIDS treatment and family planning. Still more do not receive care to manage or prevent non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that are taking an increasing toll in the poorest countries.
Affordable health for all is a pillar of sustainable development. It is impossible to end poverty or promote economic growth if people risk bankruptcy when they or a family member gets sick. The new progress report finds that 17% of people in low- and middle-income countries are pushed or further pushed into poverty (US$2/day) because of health spending. Although the number of people impoverished by health care has declined slightly over the past decade, the drop has not been swift or sweeping enough.
Six months ago on the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day, 12 December 2014, a historic global coalition of 500+ organizations in 100+ countries urged governments to ensure access to quality health care without financial hardship. On Universal Health Coverage Day 2015, the coalition will call for greater action and progress. Universal health coverage is a pivotal element of the Sustainable Development Goals expected to be ratified by the United Nations later this year.
The biggest obstacles to universal health coverage have been political – the misperception that health for all is not achievable or affordable, and a lack of tools to measure progress and hold leaders accountable. Armed with the clearest evidence to date that universal health coverage is both right and smart, the time has come for all countries to make health for all a reality.
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