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Universal Health Coverage

Our interventions helped support UHC at a national level and an equitable global response to COVID-19.

The Issue


Health should not be dependent on wealth.


Universal Health Coverage is achieved when everybody receives the healthcare they need without suffering financial hardship.  We believe UHC is the best way to achieve the health Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Achieving UHC will also contribute to achieving the SDGs focused on economic growth, reducing poverty and inequality, and building peace and stability.


Our Approach

Since 2016, we have undertaken UHC-focused country visits to Tanzania, Indonesia, India, Ethiopia and South Africa. We believe our interventions can help political leaders take the bold steps needed to implement pro-poor UHC reforms. We will aim to do this through global and country-level activity to promote the merits of UHC and convince key stakeholders of its fundamental role in national development strategies.

Ibrahim Joesph/The Elders
Photo: UN Women/Fahad Abdullah Kaizer

COVID-19 and UHC


COVID-19 is a universal threat and requires a universal response. This global public health crisis shows that health is a fundamental human right and the foundation of economic prosperity and security. The best strategy for world leaders to tackle the current pandemic and prepare for future ones is to ensure an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and accelerate progress towards UHC.


UHC: a goal all countries can reach


Watch Jimmy Carter, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Graça Machel, Hina Jilani, Mary Robinson, Ernesto Zedillo and the late Kofi Annan explain why The Elders have launched a campaign for Universal Health Coverage (UHC).


Our view on achieving UHC



Hundreds of millions of people around the world are currently denied necessary health services or are plunged into poverty because they are forced to pay unaffordable fees for their care. This burden is particularly felt by women, children and adolescents, who often have high needs for healthcare but least access to financial resources.


Following two recent United Nations resolutions, all countries are committed to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), whereby everybody receives the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.


Health is a human right

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is built on foundations of equity and rights. Everyone must be covered, with services allocated according to people’s needs and the health system financed according to people’s ability to pay.


Economic, political and social benefits

UHC improves population health outcomes, including child and maternal mortality rates. UHC also generates other benefits to societies far beyond the health sector. It stimulates economic growth, can build peace and security by uniting populations and can deliver substantial political benefits.


Public financing is key

A free market in healthcare will never enable UHC to be reached. In such a system, only the rich will receive adequate coverage and the poor and vulnerable will be excluded. Public financing is therefore key.


Investing in health, tackling climate change

Fossil fuels –a major cause of climate change– are subsidized by the world’s governments by about half a trillion dollars per year. Despite being a terrible use of public funds, they are popular. A politically viable approach would be to recycle fuel subsidies as health subsidies.


Reallocating fuel subsidies to fund universal health coverage could simultaneously contribute to achieving a country’s climate and health SDG obligations.


UHC explained

Read our position paper on Universal Health Coverage.


Watch a recent interview with Gro Harlem Brundtland and Dr. Alaa Murabit, UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth as they discuss the need for and pursuit of universal health coverage, with Bryan Walsh, Foreign & International Editor of TIME Magazine:

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