Universal health coverage saves lives, alleviates poverty and boosts growth

Ryder says more needs to be done to provide equal access to health care
Ryder says more needs to be done to provide equal access to health care

Message by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-Generalon the occasion of Universal Health Coverage Day,  12th December 2015.

On Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day we acknowledge that more needs to be done to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access to quality health care without suffering financial hardship. 

The ILO estimates that in 2015 more than 90 per cent of the global population living in low-income countries has no health protection and that more than half of the global rural population does not have access to needed health care. Only a fraction (5.6 per cent) of the world’s older population benefits from universal health and long-term care.

The unacceptable reality is that gaps in health protection result in preventable pain and death of millions of women, men and children. It also pushes countless people into poverty when they have to pay for their or their family’s care. Yet they are merely seeking that which should be available to all: the right to social security, and the right to health protection and equitable access to needed care without discrimination.

Well-designed universal health protection, in conjunction with national social protection floors, alleviates the burden caused by ill health. Health protection coverage also reduces the indirect costs of disease and disability, such as lost years of income due to short- and long-term disability, care of family members, and the impaired education and social development of children due to sickness. Clearly, the role of UHC in poverty reduction can be significant.

Many countries from Thailand to Colombia and Rwanda have shown and are showing that it is feasible to make the policy choices that can progressively deliver universal health coverage even when national income is relatively low.

In these countries, the relationship between spending on universal health protection and economic well-being is clearly established. Quite apart from the immediate results in improving health and reducing poverty, we know that healthier workers have a higher productivity and labour supply increases if morbidity and mortality rates are lower.

Moreover, health protection is a source of employment opportunities. The ILO estimates that the world is short of some 10.3 million health workers. Filling this gap has the potential to provide decent jobs and stimulate economic activity in related sectors.

Universal health coverage will improve the lives of millions and contribute significantly towards achieving the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Let’s make Universal Health Coverage a reality for all.

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  1. December 15, 2015

    There are different ways of achieving universal healthcare. The American experience appears to show that forcing everyone to buy low deductible health insurance is a spectacularly ineffective way of going about it.

  2. Governance
    December 13, 2015

    This is a telling article. Dominica was well placed to provide universal health care. We all know what has happend to our health care. Let us not lament, but do what we kow is right. Raisieng taxes to stem the sale of certain items which damages our health is not the only solution.

    We need continuous education from birth. If I do someting unintentional, my 9 year old son will quickly correctly. Why, because we do our utmost to teach him the right things regards health issues and other civic matters.

    Some of our health care providers lack the competence, skill, will zeal and affection for the job.

    Those require serious attention.

  3. anonymous2
    December 13, 2015

    Universal health coverage lowers the quality of medicine and health care and raises premiums for the insurance companies. Without the insurance industry, costs related to health care would be lower.

  4. Shaka Zulu
    December 12, 2015

    Dominicans and their government will not comprehend that. Freeness ideology. Development at the expenses others. Then again if people don’t have work they cannot pay for anything

  5. anonymous2
    December 12, 2015

    Not true. It lowers the quality of health care and raises the premiums to benefit the insurance companies.

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