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UHC explained: Universal Health Coverage delivers substantial health, economic and political benefits

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As successful UHC reforms are dependent on increased public financing and sustained political commitment, we call on the global development community to promote the economic and political benefits of UHC to political leaders and ministers of finance.


What is the evidence that UHC improves people’s health?

UHC improves population health through more people getting access to a range of effective health services including: preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care.

In The Lancet in 2012, researchers from Imperial College London, using data from over 150 countries, found that:  “broader health coverage generally leads to better access to necessary care and improved population health, with the largest gains accruing to poorer people.i

Specifically they found that a 10% increase in pooled, government health spending led to a reduction of 7.9 deaths per 1000 children under five. Conversely higher proportions of out-of-pocket health expenditures (indicating lower financial protection from healthcare costs) resulted in higher levels of adult mortality.

What are the economic benefits of UHC?

UHC benefits economies through stimulating economic growth (more productive workforce), facilitating educational gains (healthier children learn better), empowering women and reducing poverty associated with health costs.

In September 2015, 267 eminent economists signed The Economists’ Declaration on UHC which showed that the economic returns on investing in UHC were more than ten times the costsii.

UHC protects households from impoverishing financial risks. A 10-year evaluation of Thailand’s Universal Coverage programme found that the incidence of people falling below the poverty line due to health costs was reduced by two thirds.

What are the political benefits of UHC?

UHC is popular across the world and if UHC reforms are implemented properly they can build peace and security in countries and deliver substantial political benefits to governments.

Many leaders coming to power after a national crisis (be it economic or political) have implemented rapid UHC reforms as a way to deliver a quick-win for their people. Examples include Rwanda, Nepal, Thailand, Brazil and also the UK after World War Two.

i Moreno-Serra R, Smith P. Does progress towards universal health coverage improve population health? The Lancet. 2012; 380:917-23
ii Summers L et al Economists Declaration on Universal Health Coverage The Lancet Volume 386 , Issue 10008 , 2112 - 2113

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