Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage

Q: How can we measure universal health coverage?

As universal health coverage is a combination of whether people obtain the health services they need and financial risk protection, measurement needs to include both components. Coverage of health services can be measured by the percentage of people receiving the services they need: for example women in fertile age groups accessing modern methods of family planning or children immunized. On the other hand, financial risk protection can be evaluated by a reduction in the number of families pushed into poverty or placed under severe economic strain due to health costs. The impact of these steps on population health and household financial wellbeing can also be measured, as can many of the factors that make it easier to increase coverage. These include the availability of essential medicines, for example.

The main challenge is that many countries do not have the capacity to measure coverage of all of the many health interventions that their populations needs. So they will need to choose a set of key indicators to track performance in service coverage. A sub-set of these could be used to compare performance between countries.



Q: What is the impact of universal health coverage on the population?

Universal health coverage has a direct impact on a population’s health and welfare. Access and use of health services enables people to be more productive and active contributors to their families and communities. It also ensures that children can go to school and learn. At the same time, financial risk protection prevents people from being pushed into poverty when they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.

Universal health coverage is thus a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and a key element of any effort to reduce social inequities. Universal coverage is the hallmark of a government’s commitment to improve the wellbeing of all its citizens.


Q: What does universal health coverage mean?

Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the health services they need (prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care) without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them.

This requires an efficient health system that provides the entire population with access to good quality services, health workers, medicines and technologies. It also requires a financing system to protect people from financial hardship and impoverishment from health care costs.

Access to health services ensures healthier people; while financial risk protection prevents people from being pushed into poverty. Therefore, universal health coverage is a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and a key element to reducing social inequities.

Universal health coverage is not something that can be achieved overnight, but all countries can take action to move more rapidly towards it, or to maintain the gains they have already made.