The global movement toward universal health coverage (UHC) provides an umbrella under which many governments and development partners, including the World Bank Group, focus their work to ensure all people receive quality, affordable care without suffering financial hardship. UHC aims to achieve better health and development outcomes in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide the post-2015 agenda. SDG 3 includes a target to “achieve universal health coverage (UHC), including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

The Bank’s work to help countries achieve universal health coverage is closely linked to its work to end preventable maternal and child mortality by 2030; reduce stunting and improve nutrition for infants and children; and prevent and treat communicable disease.


Last Updated: Sep 28, 2015

The World Bank Group’s Health, Nutrition and Population global practice provides financing, state-of-the-art analysis, and policy advice to help countries expand access to quality, affordable health care; protects people from falling into poverty or worsening poverty due to illness; and promotes investments in all sectors that form the foundation of healthy societies.

Universal health coverage: In promoting universal health coverage (UHC) , the Bank Group supports developing countries’ efforts to provide quality, affordable health care to everyone—regardless of their ability to pay—reducing financial risks associated with ill health, and increasing equity. The path to UHC is specific to each country. Whatever the path, the Bank Group’s aim is to help countries build healthier, more equitable societies, as well as to improve fiscal performance and country competitiveness—toward the bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity, and in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3.

In June 2015, the World Bank Group and World Health Organization (WHO) released a first of its kind report—Tracking Universal Health Coverage -- to measure health service coverage and financial protection to assess countries’ progress towards universal health coverage. In September 2015, the Bank released Going Universal, a study that looks at how 24 developing countries have embarked on the journey to UHC, with a focus on expanding coverage to the poor.

Global Financing Facility: In July 2015, the United Nations, the World Bank Group, governments of Canada, Norway, and the United States, and country and global health leaders launched the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman Every Child. The GFF is a key financing platform of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. It is a country-driven financing partnership that brings stakeholders together, under national government leadership and ownership, to provide smart, scaled and sustainable financing to accelerate efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths by 2030.

The GFF is an essential part of a paradigm shift in development financing, emphasizing the essential but changing role of official development assistance in unlocking domestic resources and private flows and focusing on results.  It has the potential to act as a pathfinder for financing the SDGs in the post-2015 era.

Ebola response: The World Bank Group’s response to the Ebola crisis is to stop the spread of infections, improve public health systems throughout West Africa, and assist countries in coping with the economic impact. . The Bank Group is working closely with affected countries to get to zero Ebola cases and plan for recovery – getting children back to school, farmers back to their fields, businesses back up and running, and investors back to the countries. Our work with affected countries also includes building stronger health systems and assisting governments in achieving universal health coverage.

With the lessons of Ebola in mind, the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization and partners are currently developing a Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility. Our goal is to create a financial instrument that increases country preparedness and disburses funding to respond rapidly to disease outbreaks.

Results-based financing for health: One of the key approaches to implement the Bank Group’s health, nutrition and population strategy is results-based financing (RBF), an innovative approach to expand the quality and reach of health care services in the poorest countries by linking financing to results. RBF focuses on paying for outputs and outcomes—for example, increasing the percentage of women receiving antenatal care or having a trained health worker deliver their baby—rather than for simply inputs or processes.

Nutrition/Stunting: The Bank Group also focuses on reducing child undernutrition and stunting worldwide, through innovative partnerships such as the Power of Nutrition.  Our investments in nutrition and food security more than tripled between 2011-12 and 2013-14, rising from $260 million to $750 million.

Increasing effectiveness of global health aid is also a key aim. The Bank Group is a proud partner in the International Health Partnership and the H4+ and is scaling up civil society engagement in health.



Last Updated: Sep 28, 2015

Through the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank Group has helped save lives and improve the health of millions in developing countries. From FY13-FY15, IDA:

  • Immunized 142.8 million children;
  • Provided 28.9 million pregnant women with antenatal care during a visit to a health provider;
  • Provided basic nutrition services to 177.3 million pregnant/lactating women, adolescent girls and/or children under 5;
  • Ensured nearly 12 million births were attended by skilled health personnel; and
  • Ensured 2.6 million people received tuberculosis treatment in accordance with the World Health Organization-recommended directly observed treatment short course (DOTS).

Here are some examples where IDA has made a difference in individual countries and regions:

To assist Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in responding to the Ebola crisis, IDA has financed essential supplies and drugs, personal protective equipment and infection prevention control materials, health worker training, hazard pay and death benefits to Ebola health workers and volunteers, contact tracing, vehicles, data management equipment, and door-to-door public health education outreach.

In response to a crippling humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa resulting from a severe drought and the corresponding outpouring of Somali refugees, IDA supported food security and health in the world’s two largest refugee camps, Dabaab in Kenya and Dollo Ado in Ethiopia. IDA contributed US$30 million from2011 to 2013, to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) delivery of emergency services, benefitting more than 1.6 million individuals. Nearly 86,000 children with severe acute malnutrition were treated, far exceeding the target of 5,275, and more than 174,000 pregnant and lactating women received food supplements, exceeding the target of 23,475.  

IDA is the first and last external financier of a remarkable AIDS response in India. IDA financed the third national AIDS control project (2007-2012) which has seen new infections decline by 60% nationally, and by 90% in the oldest epidemic state of Tamil Nadu, based on prevention of mother-to-child transmission.  Thanks to targeted prevention interventions, an estimated 3 million HIV infections will have been averted by the end of 2015.

A Senegal River Basin water resources improvement program -- which focuses on fisheries, irrigation, and health in Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal – has led to a number of improvements in local health outcomes, particularly related to malaria and neglected tropical diseases. The distribution of 3.1 million insecticide treated mosquito nets to cover about 5.6 million people resulted in a dramatic increase in net use, from 28% in 2009 to 46%in 2012, in an area largely populated by poor farmers and their families.

In Vietnam, the IDA-financed Mekong Regional Health Support project (2006-2012) increased coverage of health care through both demand side and supply side interventions, both of which were critical for improving health outcomes among the poor.  The proportion of patients satisfied with overall treatment and the condition of facilities/equipment increased from 52% in 2008 to 82.7% in 2011. The inpatient mortality rate from newborn respiratory distress decreased from 36% in 2008 to 3.7% in 2011. A total of 2.4 million people were enrolled in the insurance program by project closing.

In Burundi, a national-level, performance-based financing program is improving maternal and child health through financial incentives to facilities to deliver more key services, with additional incentives for a quality scoring. From 2010 to 2014, results were as follows: births at health facilities increased by 25%, prenatal consultations increased 20.4 %, children fully vaccinated increased  by 10.2%, curative care consultations for pregnant women increased  by 34.5%, and family planning obtained via health facilities increased  by 26.9%.

Other Bank Group health, nutrition and population results include:

  • In Argentina, improved health services and accessibility for poor pregnant women and children led to a decrease in low birth weight and in-hospital deaths of babies in the first 28 days of life for program beneficiaries.
  • In Armenia, the Bank Group contributed to the implementation of the government’s health reform program through the expansion of access to quality primary health care, which led to a tremendous increase—from 17% in 2004 to 85% in 2010—in the population served by qualified family medicine practices. Overall satisfaction with the quality of and access to primary health care services rose from 87.6% to 95%.
  • In Brazil, the Bank Group helped strengthen the health surveillance system and expanded access to and improved the effectiveness of health, water, and sanitation services for especially vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples. As a result, 74% of the indigenous population was immunized by 2010 and malaria-related deaths declined by 60% from 2003 to 2007.
  • In the China TB Control Project, the case detection rate for new smear-positive TB cases increased from 23% in 2002 to 77% in 2010 (target: 70%) and the cure rate for smear-positive TB cases increased from 80% in 2002 to 93% in 2010 (target: 85%).
  • In Nepal, the Bank Group supported the national health sector program in expanding access to and increasing the use of essential health services, especially to underserved populations. As a result, contraceptive prevalence increased from 35% in 2001 to 51.7% in 2010 with a concomitant decrease in total fertility rate from 4.1 to 2.9 births per woman. Skilled attendance at birth also increased from 8% to 35%, and the percentage of children immunized against measles/DPT3 increased from 62% in 2001 to 83% in 2009 for the lowest income quintile.
  • In Rwanda, Bank Group support has led to an increase in health insurance enrollment from 7% to more than 70% of the population; a 50% increase in utilization of health services by poor children; a 63% increase in the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets; a doubling of use of family planning services; a 62% decrease in malaria incidence; and a 30% decrease in child mortality.
  • In Senegal, the Bank Group supports an innovative nutrition health program that operates at the community level in collaboration with local governments, district health authorities, and civil society organizations. National underweight malnutrition rates dropped from 22% in 2005 to 17% in 2012, bringing Senegal—among very few countries globally—within reach of achieving the MDG to halve the rate of malnutrition.



Last Updated: Sep 28, 2015

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