Universal Health

Half of world’s population without access to essential health services


At least half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people – cannot obtain essential health services, according to a new report from the World Bank and the World Health Organization. And each year, large numbers of households are being pushed into poverty because they must pay for health care out of their own pockets.

Currently, 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their household budgets on health expenses for themselves, a sick child or other family member. For almost 100 million people these expenses are high enough to push them into extreme poverty, forcing them to survive on just $1.90 or less a day. “It is completely unacceptable that half the world still lacks coverage for the most essential health services,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.

“It is unnecessary. A solution exists: universal health coverage (UHC) allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.”

Eastern Mediterranean Region
In the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), around 40% of health expenditure comes directly from people’s pockets; most of whom cannot afford it. People with low incomes and without social protection are the hardest affected. Asa result, an estimated 7.5 million people are pushed into poverty every year in the EMR due to spending on health. Universal health coverage has a special relevance to people living in countries with acute and prolonged emergency situations, noting that half of the world’s internally displaced populations are living in countries of the region and more than 60% of the world’s refugees and migrants originate from the region. This is the status even though most countries in the region have adopted universal health coverage as a national vision.

The essence of universal health coverage is the provision of a basic package of health services to the whole population and ensuring that those who cannot pay for health care are financially protected through prepayment schemes. Every country can make progress towards universal coverage, even low-income countries and those affected by emergencies.

Commenting on the report, Dr Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President, said: “The report makes clear that if we are serious – not just about better health outcomes, but also about ending poverty – we must urgently scale up our efforts on universal health coverage. Investments in health, and more generally investments in people, are critical to build human capital and enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“But the system is broken: we need a fundamental shift in the way we mobilize resources for health and human capital, especially at the country level. We are working on many fronts to help countries spend more and more effectively on people, and increase their progress towards universal health coverage.”

There are wide gaps in the availability of services in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In other regions, basic health care services such as family planning and infant immunization are becoming more available, but lack of financial protection means increasing financial distress for families as they pay for these services out of their own pockets.

This is even a challenge in more affluent regions such as Eastern Asia, Latin America and Europe, where a growing number of people are spending at least 10% of their household budgets on outof- pocket health expenses. Inequalities in health services are seen not just between, but also within countries: national averages can mask low levels of health service coverage in disadvantaged population groups. For example, only 17% of mothers and children in the poorest fifth of households in low- and lower-middle income countries received at least six of seven basic maternal and child health interventions, compared to 74% for the wealthiest fifth of households.




Date of upload: 22nd Jan 2018

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