Global Action toward Universal Health Coverage

This report is a primer on universal health coverage. It examines the history of universal health coverage, the momentum the concept is gathering in countries and at international organizations, the elements needed to move toward expanded coverage, and the obstacles involved.

As national incomes have risen across diverse countries—along with the burden of noncommunicable diseases—demand has intensified for quality, affordable health services. Many countries today are actively seeking to bring about universal health coverage—ensuring quality health services for all at a price that does not create undue financial pressure for individuals seeking care. The effort has stirred expanded interest and guidance from international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the World Bank, and led to new platforms for developing countries to learn from each other. While universal health coverage will provide new funding and opportunities, including for the private sector, there is a need for dynamic, transparent negotiations among all health constituents, to forge enduring, feasible arrangements that ensure quality services reach all populations and make the best use of scarce health resources. Universal health coverage will remain a work in progress for many countries for many years. It will require grappling with considerable uncertainties and risks. It also has the potential to attract greater attention to health spending, health systems, and improved equity, advances that will benefit human development more broadly.

Nellie Bristol
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Global Health Policy Center