Universal health coverage (UHC) is about ensuring that people have access to the health care they need without suffering financial hardship. UHC also allows countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital. Health is a foundational investment in human capital and in economic growth--without good health, children are unable to go to school and adults are unable to go to work.
UHC is also key to achieving the World Bank Group’s (WBG) twin goals of ending extreme poverty and increasing equity and shared prosperity, and as such it is the driving force behind all of the WBG’s health and nutrition investments. It is also an essential part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 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.” SDG 1, with the goal to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, is also in peril without UHC, as hundreds of millions of people are impoverished by health expenses every year.
In recent years, the UHC movement has gained global momentum, with the World Health Assembly and the United Nations General Assembly calling on countries to “urgently and significantly scale up efforts to accelerate the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality healthcare services.”
At the same time, challenges remain. Recent World Bank/World Health Organization (WHO) research from 2017 shows that half the world's population cannot access needed health services, while 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of health expenses. In addition, 800 million people spend at least 10 percent or more of their household budget on healthcare expenses.
In December 2017, a high-level forum on UHC was jointly organized by the Government of Japan, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UHC2030 and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The UHC Forum aimed to galvanize the health sector, countries, development partners, civil society and the private sector toward the common goal of UHC, including pandemic preparedness, and highlight country success and breakthrough experiences to accelerate the progress of UHC.
Last Updated: Apr 12, 2018