Universal Health Coverage

Half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to essential health services. Health systems with limited funding, mainly in low- and middle-income countries, often lack the facilities, health workers and lifesaving tests, medicines and products needed to provide quality care.

Even when stronger health facilities exist, not everyone can afford it; every year, 70 million people are pushed into extreme poverty by out-of-pocket health costs. The COVID-19 pandemic further strained overburdened health systems, making the inequalities worse.

Without access to proper health care, millions of people suffer and die from preventable, treatable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria and complications from routine medical procedures including childbirth. Without strong health systems, countries are not prepared to respond to new crises like COVID-19.

Achieving universal health coverage is a target in Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-being. Universal health coverage aims to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to the health services they need without risking falling into poverty. To realize this target, governments must strengthen resilient and equitable health systems, with primary health care as a foundation.

Universal health coverage is at the heart of our vision: to provide equitable access to health innovations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. Our work contributes to universal health coverage by:

  • Providing access to better health products needed to deliver quality and people-centered health care by helping to fast-track development and approval of innovative tests, treatments and tools.
  • Lowering prices of health products through negotiations, creation of generic markets, and facilitation of licensing agreements to promote competition. This drives cost savings and make limited health budgets go farther.
  • Simplifying health care with self-tests people can use at home, and point-of-care diagnostic tests and tolerable and easy to take medicines that can be used at community level and primary health centers.
  • Freeing up resources by providing better preventive treatments, self-tests and faster, easier-to-use health products, which reduces the number of people vising clinics or hospitals and frees up health workers’ time to treat other patients.

Read more about how Unitaid is working with partners and countries to achieve universal health coverage in our new Issue Brief.

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