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New report calls for Universal Health Coverage to be implemented worldwide

Health professionals and policymakers came together on 17 February to debate the human right to health as a new report calls on () to be implemented across the globe. Delegates at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), heard from the report’s lead author, Sir David Nicholson (former chief executive of the National Health Service in England) as he launched The Next Billion: How to Deliver Universal Health Coverage.

UHC is the basic concept that every person, everywhere, should have access to healthcare without suffering financial hardship. This essential human right is a cornerstone of sustainable development and global security. But today, a billion people worldwide live without access to basic healthcare services and every year millions are forced into poverty after having to pay for healthcare out of their own pocket.

Today’s policy report, which is based on a review of all available evidence, highlights the substantial benefits UHC can deliver – for individuals, for countries and for politicians – and provides a solid framework to support policymakers in transitioning their nations’ health services to UHC.

The report recognises that designing and implementing a UHC strategy cannot be seen as a one-size-fits-all process. But a consensus is emerging on effective approaches to UHC that can be applied universally and it’s these evidence-based recommendations that will see the global movement towards UHC continue to gather momentum.

Launching the report at WISH, lead author and Forum Chair Sir David Nicholson said: “Evidence shows that in any country it’s important that the whole population is covered with a priority health package providing good quality primary, community and some general hospital services. When it comes to financing, our research suggests that the most effective mechanism is a publicly governed compulsory financing system. Above all, strong political leadership, careful monitoring and strong institutions are needed to see successful implementation of health reforms.

“No one is pretending that improving health systems is easy – but case studies from around the world show it is possible. Complex issues need to be discussed and difficult decisions made at the highest level. My message to policymakers is to be brave and bold.”

Professor The Lord Darzi of Denham, Executive Chair of WISH and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College of London, said: “The report we have published today provides clear recommendations for policymakers to help them implement much needed change in how healthcare is financed and delivered. The discussion was lively and positive and we now look forward to working with health leaders as they take crucial steps in their home countries towards ensuring that every citizen – regardless of income – has equal access to high quality healthcare.”

The report’s recommendations have been endorsed by a wide range of organisations – including the World Bank and the Lancet Commission. This WISH report aims to keep UHC at the top of the global health agenda and stimulate further informed debate and action across the globe.

In December 2012 the United Nations passed a resolution calling on all countries to plan or pursue the transition of their health services towards universal coverage. According to the World Health Organization, universal health coverage (UHC) is the single most powerful concept that public health can offer.

Recent research looking into the health of 2035 showed that for every USD1 invested in health today, we could reap USD20 increase in income over the next 20 years.[1] Recognised as a subject of such importance, the World Bank Group has identified UHC as a top priority for sustainable development. To date more than 80 countries have asked the World Health Organization (WHO) for help in moving toward UHC, including the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

UHC is one of eight reports being presented at the 2015 WISH Summit taking place in Qatar, where leading international health experts are joining an influential community of heads of state, government ministers, academics, clinicians, policy makers and business leaders to discuss innovative solutions to some of the most pressing global health challenges.

As well as UHC, WISH will publish reports on Communicating Complex Health Messages, Diabetes, Delivering Affordable Cancer Care, Dementia, Patient Safety, Mental Health and Wellbeing in Children, and Maternal and Newborn Health.

WISH is spearheaded by Qatar Foundation to inspire and diffuse healthcare innovation and best practice. It remains closely aligned to the vision and mission of QF to unlock human potential and reinforces Qatar’s pioneering role as an emerging center for healthcare innovation.

To download the reports and watch the research discussions that are taking place at WISH, please visit www.wish.org.qa.


[1] The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health. Global Health 2035: A world converging within a generation. The Lancet. December 2013.

Source: World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH)