Home > politics > policy > WHO unveils plan to promote universalisation of health system

Beijing: Health experts and policy makers will urge a UN resolution on universal health coverage (UHC), making transformation of health systems a global political goal in the post-2015 development agenda, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said on Thursday.

“We need political solutions as much as we need health solutions to reach our development goals," Rodin said at the second global symposium on health systems research in Beijing. “We need political solutions as much as we need health solutions to reach our development goals. There is a global movement towards UHC and it is gathering momentum."

UHC is aimed at providing health care and financial risk protection to all citizens. On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a strategy to promote universalisation of health policy and systems research in global academic and political movements towards UHC.

Indian delegate Sujatha Rao, while launching the WHO strategy, called for a greater recognition of the need for an integrated approach in health systems policy, especially after the 2015 deadline for achieving the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The MDG includes health goals such as reducing child mortality rates, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

“There has been shift of focus from vertical programmes to an integrated approach to establish comprehensive health systems. We need to embed research into decision making," Rao said. “In India, we have many government-run programs which are being scaled up without any evidence suggesting that it requires to be scaled up. It is crucial for policy makers and researchers to work as allies in the post MDG-era."

Over the next three days, the symposium will be the platform for low and middle income countries (LMIC) currently experimenting with UHC-related policy changes to learn from experiences, said Chen Zhu, the Chinese health minster.

The conference is key for the BRICS countries--Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa—which are currently at different stages of implementation of UHC policies, especially with regard to the impact of policy changes on free markets, said Kiril Danishevskiy, from the higher school of economics in Russia.

“In free markets, doctors become businessmen, taking control of the health system and making it hard to reform. This happened in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the government lost control of health care system," he said.

“Russia was the first country in the world to offer free care for all in 1918, and it worked well until 1965..," he said. “Since money was diverted to defence, doctors were impoverished. The economic hardship of the 1990s further worsened the health indicators of our country. This happens with social equity and development is not a political priority."

Experts are pushing for realignment of economic and social goals, which consider health as an opportunity for development.

“Society should regulate the market and it should not be regulated by it. Given the rising costs in private sector, we rearranged our health system using process similar to the banking sector. This helped us understand what services charges can be applied to consumers while delivering healthcare. The netx step is the improve focus on preventive care with legislative reforms", said Precious Matsoso, South Africa’s director general of health.

South Africa spends 8.3% of gross domestic product on health, compared with the 1.85% of GDP that India alloctated to health in the 12th five year plan (2007-12).

India is paying the price for not investing in primary health care centres, said Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

“We have the largest number of underweight children in the world and our infant and maternal mortality rates continue to be unacceptably high. While overall envelope of public expenditures is high (around 33%), the amount allocated by the central government to health is low," Reddy said.

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