More than half of the global population remains without access to essential Universal Health Coverage, and a staggering 2 billion people face severe financial hardships when attempting to pay for necessary services and products out-of-pocket. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank presented this dire situation in the 2023 Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Global Monitoring Report.
The report’s findings are alarming, indicating that over the past two decades, less than a third of countries have improved health service coverage while reducing catastrophic out-of-pocket health spending. A substantial number of countries are off-track in either service coverage, financial protection, or both.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, emphasized, “The COVID-19 pandemic was a reminder that healthy societies and economies depend on healthy people.” He stressed the urgency of addressing this issue, stating that it not only jeopardizes individual health but also the stability of communities, societies, and economies. Dr. Tedros called for stronger political will, increased investments in health, and a transformation of health systems based on primary health care.
Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank, highlighted the increasing financial hardship faced by the poorest and most vulnerable individuals. She stressed the need to prioritize health in government budgets and strengthen health systems to ensure equitable access to quality health services and financial protection.
HEALTH COVERAGE; LIMITED IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICE COVERAGE
Expansion of essential health services has slowed down, particularly since 2015 when the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted. Progress has virtually halted from 2019 to 2021, with limited improvement in service coverage for noncommunicable diseases and reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services. In 2021, over 4.5 billion people, more than half of the global population, lacked full access to essential health services.
HEALTH COVERAGE; OUT-OF-POCKET HEALTH
The report also highlights the worsening situation of catastrophic out-of-pocket health spending, impacting approximately 1 billion people globally. Even small health expenditures can push low-income families into poverty and force difficult choices between healthcare, food, and education.
Achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030 is vital for fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensuring the fundamental human right to health. The report emphasizes the need for substantial public sector investment, a shift towards a primary health care approach, equity in healthcare access and financial protection, and robust health information systems.
This call to action in the 2023 UHC Global Monitoring Report underscores the urgent need for global prioritization and investment in Universal Health Coverage to provide quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare to everyone without causing financial hardship.