Leave No One Behind: Five Key Components to Make Universal Health Coverage a Reality for All

Leave No One Behind: Five Key Components to Make Universal Health Coverage a Reality for All

{Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}Photo Credit: Warren Zelman

On the fifth anniversary of the UHC movement, we reflect on a few key steps to reach UHC.

In the five years since the United Nations adopted the momentous resolution that established the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) movement—achieving equitable, affordable access to high-quality health services for all who need them—countries have made significant progress toward providing basic health services to large segments of the population. This year marks an important moment for advancing UHC, as the new Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has made it abundantly clear that UHC is a priority for his administration.

That is great news. We have seen more countries and institutions working toward practical interventions that will make UHC a reality. We have seen them make financial and managerial commitments that will be critical for the global health community to achieve this noble, oft-lifesaving goal. But more work remains.


Achieving UHC through governance and financing


During the last United Nations General Assembly in September, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) had the privilege of participating in a rich discussion with USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for Global Health Irene Koek, WHO Health Systems Governance and Financing Department Director Agnès Soucat, Results for Development (R4D) Senior Program Director Cheryl Cashin, MSH Human Resources for Health Global Technical Lead Ummuro Adano, MSH Senior Director of Project Implementation Jason Wright, and Wellbeing Foundation Africa Global Communications Manager Sagal Ali. This panel unpacked what is needed to develop institutions and ensure good governance, and shared lessons learned to guarantee equitable, affordable, and accessible health care. It is clear that citizen platforms, health economists, and health workers will need to be integral parts of the UHC pathway.

The panel shared examples from the new WHO Health Systems Governance Collaborative and the African Collaborative for Health Financing Solutions, led by Results for Development. These are their five key takeaways:

  1. Smarter Knowledge-Sharing and Stronger Institutions: UHC success is not just deaths averted, it’s also better processes, smarter knowledge-sharing, and stronger institutions. The pathway to UHC is through developing the health workforce. Basic leadership and management skills are needed.

  2. Training in Financing: We need to help support and develop country expertise and training in UHC financing and health systems. We need health economists! Tools to support leadership and governance for UHC can be found at LMG for Health and MSH LeaderNet. African Collaborative for Health Financing Solutions is a new demand-driven platform helping countries move forward on UHC.

  3. UHC Legislation: Nigeria's Senate has introduced a legislative network for UHC to reach all Nigerians. This is a great example of governance at work for UHC.

  4. More Transparent Governance: Most countries have shown they have the funding for UHC, but do they have the institutional capacity? Improving governance matters. UHC is an issue of governance, an issue of collective action—and that’s a political question. There is a knowledge management gap in UHC. We need communities of practice that include practitioners and lessons learned.

  5. Citizen Platforms and National Health Assemblies: We need to build these active citizen platforms with a voice. UHC is a social contract. Health Systems Governance Collaborative addresses issues of political will and choice, critical for achieving UHC.


Great momentum


On December 13 and 14 in Tokyo, the Japanese Government will host a UHC Forum co-organized with UHC2030, UNICEF, the World Bank, and WHO. The forum will gather more than 300 senior policy makers and experts, including from ministries of finance and health, bilateral and multilateral institutions, civil society organizations, and private-sector, and academic institutions. The objective of the forum is to stimulate global and country-level progress toward UHC, including pandemic preparedness, through review of UHC progress and sharing of country experiences. The output of the forum will include a joint statement on key progress, challenges, lessons from country experiences, and next actions.

There is fantastic momentum on UHC. We at MSH are excited for the progress to come in the next five years as, together, we make health coverage become universal