By: Lunga Memela (CommunicationsEngagement Lead)
The scramble for COVID-19 vaccines: its production, supply and distribution, especially in developing countries, has highlighted the urgent need, once again, for universal health coverage (UHC). It was on 12 December 2012 that the United Nations (UN) General Assembly endorsed a resolution urging countries to accelerate progress toward UHC – the idea that everyone, everywhere should have access to quality, affordable healthcare.
On the day in 2017, the UN proclaimed 12 December as International UHC Day, calling on nations to demand action on UHC and calling on leaders to invest in health systems for all that leave no one behind as per the theme for 2021: Leave No One's Health Behind: Invest in health systems for all. "Our lives, livelihoods and futures depend on it," advises the UN.
What is Universal Health Coverage?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), UHC means that all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.
This YouTube clip on UHC from WHO emphasises that good health needs people, services, products, finances, policies and information; and it needs all of them to work together even in times of crisis. "Good health systems don't just treat sick people, they help to promote healthy living and prevent people from falling ill in the first place."
The Health Systems Trust lobbies for UHC in the South African context
The 15th edition of the District Health Barometer (DHB), a flagship publication of the Health Systems Trust (HST), provides information across a wide range of district health services and spans 30 indicators. The main focus of this edition was again on the Sustainable Development Goals and the UHC Index as an approach to measuring equity and progress with policy implementation. "The publication presents burden-of-disease data, coupled with the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, a chapter on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and health system responses in South Africa, with an analysis of provincial data and lessons learnt from the Western Cape," said HST CEO, Dr Themba Moeti, upon its release.
Over the years the publication has provided policy-makers, healthcare workers, planners, researchers, academics and other consumers of national health system information with a unique overview of the performance of public health services in South Africa. The DHB plays an important role in providing information for district managers to benchmark their districts against others in the country and in strengthening the use of data for priority-setting and decision-making.
HST is a leading role-player in the South African public health arena, focusing on health systems strengthening, research, and strategic support to the implementation of priority health programmes. Its vision for 'Improved health equity in a healthier Africa' goes hand-in-hand with the very concept of making UHC a reality.
Access WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus' keynote speech for International UHC Day 2021. Also see this short clip, a statement from the Director-General as UHC Champion.
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