Global momentum is quickly building for universal health care (UHC), defined by the World
Health Organization as "ensuring that all people have access to needed promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that people do not suffer financial hardship when paying for these services." In January 2012, health ministers from around the world gathered in Bangkok and committed themselves to "rais[ing] universal health coverage on the national, regional and global agendas." Four months later, the World Health Assembly formally adopted a resolution calling for worldwide UHC. In her address to the assembly, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan described UHC as "the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer." In December, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution on UHC, encouraging national governments worldwide to "plan or pursue the transition towards universal access to affordable and quality health-care services." The unprecedented support that the UHC agenda has received from
national governments, civil society, and international organizations significantly boosted its chances of being included in the post-2015 Millennium Development Framework as a unifying and central health goal that crosses political and economic lines.
Achieving sustainable UHC requires health systems to deliver progress on access to coverage with financial risk protection and access to coverage for needed health services. While the global rebalancing of wealth and the growing political commitment to the health sector have enabled many more countries to make significant domestic investments in their health systems, countries aspiring to expanding coverage continue to face challenges on how to remove financial barriers to access and reduce financial risks of illness. Their efforts to address these challenges are further complicated by the ongoing economic and financial crisis and the shifting demographic and epidemiological landscape (e.g., population movement and aging, the rise of noncommunicable diseases). These issues are critical for successful implementation of UHC, yet thus far, have not been addressed adequately.
The project on Unfinished Universal Health Coverage Agenda will be under the direction of Senior Fellow for Global Health Yanzhong Huang. This project has been made possible by the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation.