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Health News of Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Source: GNA

Universal Health Coverage expands for better outcomes

More countries are rolling out universal health coverage programmes designed to expand access to health care and reduce the number of people impoverished by paying for the health care they need.

A World Bank Group report released at the on-going United Nations General Assembly, tagged: “Going Universal: How 24 countries are implementing universal health coverage reforms from the bottom up,” had the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supporting it financially.

The report looks at how these countries, which have embarked on the path to universal health coverage, are expanding the coverage to the poor who often get much less from their health systems than the better-off do.

In a statement from the World Bank Group in New York, and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, on Monday, said the report had come at a time when the world leaders had met to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, including for the first time, a goal to achieve universal health coverage.

Ghana, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and Vietnam, were covered by the study.

According to the report, Mr Daniel Cotlear, an author of the study said: “This report offers practical insights to policy makers worldwide who are seeking to accelerate progress toward universal health coverage and it offers the potential of achieving greater equity and better results for the money spent.”

Mr Cotlear is also a Lead Economist in Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank Group in the report say expansion of universal health coverage is critical, but 400 million people lack access to essential health services and six per cent of people in low and middle-income countries are pushed into extreme poverty because of out-of-pocket health spending.

The report shows that universal health coverage requires both greater investment, and a shift in spending to dedicate additional resources in a pro-poor and fiscally sustainable way.

The authors look at how policy makers in countries are tackling five key challenges: Covering people; Expanding benefits; Managing money; Improving the supply of health care services and strengthening accountability.

They found that the countries’ programmes are new, massive and transformational, while most were launched in the past decade, with a total coverage of more than two billion people.

“They all were fundamentally changing the way health systems operated, they observed, “Each of the programmes is aimed to overcome a legacy of inequality by overcoming gaps in the financing and coverage of services that disadvantage the poor.”

Mr Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group said: “Universal health coverage is a triple win: It improves people’s health, reduces poverty and fuels economic growth.”

“The report highlights how far many countries are on the path to universal health coverage, but it also shows how far many still have to go to ensure that the poorest have access to essential health services and are protected from health expenses that cause them severe financial hardship.”

“As the world focuses on how to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals, acting on these findings will help to ensure that the world’s poor are not left behind,” he said.

WHO and the World Bank Group have recommended that countries pursuing universal health coverage should aim to achieve a minimum of 80 per cent population coverage of essential health services, and everyone everywhere should be protected from catastrophic and impoverishing health payments.