Inter-Parliamentary Union calls for Universal Health Coverage

The grouping of national parliaments passed a resolution to the effect in Belgrade, Serbia

By Rohan Gupta
Published: Friday 18 October 2019
Inter-Parliamentary Union calls for Universal Health Coverage by 2030. Photo: Getty Images

A resolution passed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organisation of parliaments of sovereign states, has urged legislatures to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.

The resolution was passed at the 141st IPU Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia on October 17, 2019. The assembly was attended by delegates from 140 countries, with more than 70 speakers of parliament.

A Gerkens, vice-president of the Standing committee on Democracy and Human Rights, introduced the draft resolution. It was prepared by rapporteurs from Bangladesh, Brazil and Switzerland, with technical advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“UHC is a key element of the Sustainable Development Goals and to fulfil its promise, it must respond to the specific needs of all sectors of society,” Gerkens asserted in her introduction.

Even though major strides have been made in UHC, half of the world’s population still lacks access to basic healthcare services.

A hundred million people are pushed into poverty due to the mounting pressure of health expenses and 800 million people spend at least 10 per cent of their household budget on health care expenses, the resolution noted.

If no measures are taken immediately, an estimated five billion people will lack access to essential health services by 2020, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said.

Ghebreyesus enumerated four key areas where the support of countries are needed to ensure UHC. These include:

  1. Legislating for UHC
  2. Allocating funds to enhance access to health care service and products and make UHC a financially viable objective
  3. Involving ministries other than health such as food and water for UHC’s effective implementation
  4. Ensuring accountability for UHC by building transparent institutions and fostering meaningful dialogue with civil society

The UHC Global Monitoring report, issued in September by the WHO, emphasised on the need to double health coverage by 2030.

The report said that an additional $200 billion a year on scaling up primary healthcare services across the low and middle income countries could potentially save 60 million lives.

Average life expectancy could rise by 3.7 years by 2030 owing to the increased funding which represents a 3 per cent increase on the $7.5 trillion already spent on global health annually.

The same report showed that average out-of-pocket spending on medicines as a share of total household out-of-pocket health spending in India is about 80 per cent, one of the highest numbers in the WHO’s South East Asian region.

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