Commonwealth insights: universal health coverage

An extensive discussion at the Commonwealth People’s Forum 2018 (CPF 2018) explored the provision of universal health coverage (UHC), defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘ensuring that everyone, everywhere can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship’ (World Health Organisation 2018).

Participants recognised that Commonwealth countries are often far from achieving UHC and that an alternate, people-centred concept of health is required to counteract the growing shift from public to private health provision. Participants also felt that governments need to be held to account; not only for providing health care as a basic human right, but also for the treaties they sign and commit to, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

The session highlighted the range of contemporary models and approaches to building health care systems that promote full coverage, including several country case studies. Requirements for an effective health workforce and challenges in achieving
effective, qualified and motivated health workforces were also identified.

The challenges of the new demands on health systems such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, various forms of cancer and mental health were explored. While there is increasing public and governmental focus on this challenge, in practice there has been a limited financial and policy response from governments. Participants proposed several recommendations for action by Commonwealth governments and civil society in the period to 2020.

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