Africa: Global Movement Emerges for Universal Health Coverage
Thursday, October 3, 2013
An emerging movement of global leaders of government, civil society and finance is urging United Nations member states, as they meet in New York, to include universal health coverage (UHC) in the next round of global goals for economic development, just as similar reforms take root in the US. Enrollment opens tomorrow for newly created healthcare exchanges which aim to expand accessibility for millions of American families.
Rates of health coverage in the US are already vastly higher than in most developing countries, where coverage is sometimes below 10 percent and health workforce shortages are severe. As a result, a billion people worldwide are unable to obtain modern healthcare and 100 million every year are forced into poverty by out-of-pocket health costs, the arguments for improving access and affordability have never been stronger. This dire need was highlighted by a recent statement signed by 15 global civil society organizations (including Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Oxfam, Save the Children, Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World, among others) urging UN member states to include UHC as a priority in the development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals.
“Universal health coverage can bring the global health community together,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a special adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Millennium Development Goals. “UHC is where all diseases come together, all countries have primary health systems, all ages and all classes have care.” At one of several UHC events in New York during the UN General Assembly last week, Sachs continued, “We have the money. Our development problems aren’t financial but moral.”
At the same event, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health of the US Agency for International Development, noted that when calculated globally, it costs only $60 (US) per person for a package of basic health care services that benefit everyone. However, some of the poorest countries have a $500 per capita, and when factoring in other expenses, like GDP growth, taxes, infrastructure and costs of daily living, they still need help paying that $60 per person.
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