At current levels of progress, a third of the world’s population will still have no access to health services by 2030.
For so many people, the current and future situation regarding accessing quality health care is abysmal. Each year in low and middle income countries, an estimated eight million people die of conditions that should be treatable. This is unacceptable.
It is why commitment to universal health coverage (UHC) – that all people have access, without discrimination, to quality health services without experiencing financial hardship – is more relevant than ever, and why recognising that investment in health systems, particularly at the primary health care level, is essential to making genuine progress.
Strengthening health systems to deliver UHC, and ensuring better health outcomes for everyone, are critical development issues. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise the relevance of ensuring UHC to broader development progress. Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages, includes target 3.8, which is explicitly focused on progressing UHC by 2030 and is recognised as the key pathway for achieving SDG3 by the World Health Organization.
This deep connection between health and achieving sustainable development has led to the UN system focusing on UHC for the first time, with a High-Level Meeting on universal health coverage taking place during the UN General Assembly this month.
The meeting and, crucially, the accompanying Political Declaration, have the potential to drive the transformative change that is required.
At Sightsavers, we – along with many of our partners and wider civil society – have engaged in this process throughout 2019 and welcome the declaration. It recognises the importance of strengthening health systems by such things as investment in infrastructure and of addressing the huge shortage of health workers in low and middle-income countries.
The declaration also recognises the rights of people with disabilities. This is crucial, and key to the principle of leaving no one behind set out in the SDGs. Development progress that excludes some of the poorest and most marginalised people cannot be considered effective. This is particularly relevant for people with disabilities, who – due to widespread and systemic discrimination – are often among the poorest in a community and can face multiple barriers accessing the health care they need.
Sightsavers promotes inclusive health because we believe that everyone, wherever they live, should be able to receive quality, affordable health care.About our health work