400m people can’t access essential health services, according to report
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank Group shows that 400m people do not have access to essential health services and 6% of people in low- and middle-income countries are tipped into or pushed further into extreme poverty because of health spending.
The report Tracking Universal Health Coverage is the first of its kind to measure health service coverage and financial protection to assess countries’ progress towards universal health coverage (UHC).
Launched on 12 June – six months before the second annual Universal Health Coverage Day on December 12 – it is the first in a series of annual reports that WHO and the World Bank Group will produce on tracking progress towards UHC across countries.
The report looked at global access to essential health services in 2013, — including family planning, antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, child immunisation, antiretroviral therapy, tuberculosis treatment, and access to clean water and sanitation — and found that at least 400m people lacked access to at least one of these services.
It also found that, across 37 countries, 6% of the population was tipped or pushed further into extreme poverty living on $1.25 a day because they had to pay for health services out of their own pockets.
When the study factored in a poverty measure of $2/day, 17% of people in these countries were impoverished, or further impoverished, by health expenses.
And Dr Ties Boerma, director of the department of health statistics and information systems at the WHO, said: “As more countries make commitments to UHC, one of the major challenges they face is how to track progress.
“The report shows that it is possible to quantify universal health coverage and track progress towards its key goals, both in terms of health services and financial protection coverage.”
Michael Myers, managing director at the Rockefeller Foundation, echoed his view: “As the saying goes: ‘What gets measured, gets done.’ With countries around the world taking steps to provide universal health coverage, the ability to identify gaps and effectively measure progress will add critical momentum to this global movement.
“This an important tool for countries to achieve universal health coverage and build more resilient health systems.”
WHO and the World Bank Group recommend that countries pursuing UHC should aim to achieve a minimum of 80% population coverage of essential health services, and that everyone everywhere should be protected from catastrophic and impoverishing health payments.