• Background

    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

    Watch a recent interview with Gro Harlem Bruntland 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:

  • Our recent work

    Mary Robinson and Graca Machel in Tanzania
    Mary Robinson and Graça Machel during visit to Mpamatwa Village, Tanzania (Credit: Ibrahim Joseph/The Elders)

    The Elders made several visits to promote UHC during 2017.

    In February, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Ernesto Zedillo addressed the Prince Mahidol Award Conference to highlight the importance of inclusive health policy and how this can be implemented sustainably.

    In August, Graça Machel and Mary Robinson visited Tanzania to encourage progress towards UHC in the country.

    In November, Ban Ki-Moon and Gro Brundtland spoke in New York City about the possibility of UHC in the USA.

    In December Gro Brundtland and Ernesto Zedillo visited Indonesia, to urge the government to accelerate progress towards UHC, while Ricardo Lagos made a speech at the UHC Forum public event in Tokyo to demonstrate how citizen power can generate the political will for UHC.

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