This article was published in The Conversation on international Universal Health Coverage Day on 12 December:
One of the key reasons for weak public health systems is poor leadership.
It is urgent to up-skill aspirant leaders if countries want to achieve universal health coverage.
Here are some tips on how to do this in a way that is sensitive to the needs of workplaces:
To mark the second international Universal Health Coverage Day on 12 December, my colleague, Di McIntyre, and I have just published an editorial in the South African Medical Journal.
The article argues that both the education and health sectors have been underfunded since the demise of apartheid. This is for several reasons, including fiscal policy choices.
Strengthened public funding is required for both sectors, not only from a human rights perspective, but also because economic growth depends on investment in these sectors.
You can read the article here.
If anyone missed this in an earlier blog, I’ve posted a preliminary assessment of South Africa’s progress towards universal health coverage here.
The purpose of the assessment is to use what data are available to analyse the extent to which South Africans are enjoying financial protection against the costs of using health care services, and accessing the services they need.
I’ve just come back from attending the Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Thailand. It’s an annual conference that tackles high-priority issues in the health sector, with a strong focus on influencing policy-makers.
This year the conference looked at global health issues post-MDGs.
Here are the main messages that stood out for me from the deliberations of the conference:
- Universal health coverage should be a major post-MDG goal because it is the best way to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequity.
- Public financing is clearly the only way to achieve meaningful universal health coverage (i.e. adequate financial protection providing adequate access to services of sufficient quality).
- There are innovative ways to raise public financing (such as sin taxes) but, as a start, tax collection systems should ensure that the rich and powerful meet their ordinary tax obligations. Vast quantities of tax remain unpaid in many countries.
- Similarly, transnational corporations and transactions should be taxed appropriately. Tax evasion at this level is massive.
- Efforts to promote social development are thwarted by the political determinants of inequity, including powerful supranational influences. These need to be challenged to address rising levels of inequity.
- Some countries have been successful in introducing major improvements to their health systems. This both provides evidence to support global health policy development and puts to shame governments without the political will to address the problems faced by their populations.
These, and other, points will be summarised by the conference organisers in their conference report.
The conference’s website is at http://www.pmaconference.mahidol.ac.th.
Tax-based financing is increasingly recognised as one of the better ways to finance universal health coverage.
But how feasible is it for low- and middle-income countries to increase tax revenue, and how likely is it that the public health sector will benefit from additional revenue? In other words, how easy is it to increase the fiscal space for health?
I have contributed to a study by the research consortium RESYST which explores some of these issues, using Kenya, Lagos State (in Nigeria) and South Africa as case studies.
See here for documents from this study.
To celebrate Universal Health Coverage Day, GNHE (the Global Network on Health Equity) is releasing a series of assessments about the progress towards financial risk protection and access to quality health care for all in:
Go to the GNHE website to download the assessments.
Further assessments will be released over coming weeks.