Celebrate Solutions: Expanding Universal Health Coverage to Save Lives

By: Dr. Jeanette Vega, Managing Director for Health, Rockefeller Foundation

In just over a year since the UN General Assembly passed a historic resolution on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), we have seen incredible momentum around the topic. UHC is fast becoming one of the most important and relevant issues in the global health sector, setting the stage for UHC’s prioritization in the post-2015 development agenda.

Now, global health leaders Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Jay, and Ana Langer have authored a new essay in PLoS Medicine that highlights the importance of Improving Women’s Health through Universal Health Coverage. Building on the Lancet Series on Universal Health Coverage and a recent Rockefeller Foundation/WHO/UNICEF/Save the Children report on UHC and equity, the authors argue that UHC is a powerful driver for women's health.

Looking at experience in countries like Afghanistan, Mexico, Rwanda, and Thailand, the paper argues that priority interventions towards UHC includes: The definition of an essential package of services; promotion of equity in access to essential services, decrease of financial and social barriers to care and the use of performance monitoring indicators to assess progress.

UHC approaches have seen measurable success. For example, in 1999, the government of Rwanda established a community-based insurance program, Mutuelles. By 2008, 85% of the country’s population was covered by Mutuelles. In this time period, the under-five mortality rate decreased from 196 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 103 in 2008 and 76 in 2010. Maternal mortality also declined from 1,071 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 540 in 2008 and 340 in 2010.

The paper serves as useful reminder that women's health and efforts to reach UHC must be a shared agenda with active engagement by country political and health leadership; civil society, including advocates for women's health, sexual, and reproductive health rights; multilateral agencies; global health funders; and all others concerned with women's health and equity. Uniting health advocates around this issue is particularly important in the context of discussions on the post-2015 development framework.

Jeanette Vega joined The Rockefeller Foundation in 2012. As Managing Director, Dr. Vega leads the Foundation’s work in Health including development of strategy, implementation of the Foundation’s current Transforming Health Systems Initiative, and pursuit of new work in the field.

Entry Comments

  1. We all have a vital role to play in ensuring that all health sectors, including Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), are included in the Post-2015 framework.  It is important that we, as civil society, discuss ways in which to shape this debate and learn from one another, as well as continue to build on country-by-country experiences. Alongside Countdown 2015, Action for Global Health produced a paper highlighting the critical role played by UHC and SRHR in human development and poverty eradication.  This was presented at the last Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur: ( ).

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