Policy experts define universal health care system as the surety of availability of quality in health care services to every individual irrespective of his/her class, creed, religion or ethnicity. Policy experts further classify the universal health care coverage into three fundamental pillars:
- Equality treatment for all: Every individual irrespective of his income level or social status, is eligible for medical coverage.
- Best Quality: The quality of the health care provided, shall be as per international standards and will be equipped to increase the health care status of the community.
- No Cost: The individuals under the universal health care coverage shall not be charged for the services or treatment they opt. Their treatment shall be free
One understands by Universal Health Coverage as the health care services available to an individual for free without risking the individual lives for money. The Universal Health Care includes a broad spectrum of services from detection, to prevention, to treatment, rehabilitation and promotion of healthy life style. In order to work effectively, the health system of a state should be efficient, equipped with modern technical instruments, well trained staff, trained doctors followed by sound and stable finances.
Easy access to health care for individuals particularly coming from below poverty line and other minorities is another vital step towards healthy lifestyle where they are made aware on how to keep the surrounding clean, which is again a crucial step in denying diseases from becoming epidemic. Their active participation then favours them with good health, which hinders them from poverty and malnutrition. Hence, Universal Health Coverage is a key asset in eliminating poverty, malnutrition from the masses and a key step which ensures the masses remain “sustainable” and healthy.
Evolved from the deliberation of the Constitution of World Health Organization, 1948 which declared “access to health care services” as a fundamental right.
Universal Health Care Coverage – Preparing the Roadmap
It is important for policy makers to ensure that the health system remains efficient, effective and people oriented in an effort to gain confidence by the masses along with their cooperation. This will help create awareness among the masses and encourage them to involve completely without having second thoughts. This will not only ensure maximum participation of the masses but also creates a sense of responsibility and accountability of the policy makers, connecting them directly with the masses, which would promote them to make lucrative and practical health care schemes depending upon the situation of the region and interests of the masses. It is important for the health care scheme to not just detect the disease but also make them aware on health and hygiene. The health care coverage would then ensure proper rehabilitation and treatment without any hassle.
More importantly, policy makers should ensure that people from all the backgrounds are availing the health care schemes, even those who come from some minimum basic earnings. However, it is the task of these designated policy makers to create a mechanism involving health care experts and doctors and experts from all necessary fields in an effort to provide medical treatment to those, who have been living in extreme poverty and unemployment. The challenge is to remove the sufferings of all, while ensuring that the region remains hygiene, irrespective of their income status. To ensure the efficiency of this mechanism, policy makers should create plans on distributing medicines while ensuring that the necessary medicines remains available to the general masses. It is also important to note that, often people take medicines without adequate prescription or guidance from a doctor or a health expert, hence, in order to make the health schemes effective, policy makers need to strengthen the distribution of medicines while ensuring that they not misused.
Why Universal Health Coverage?
By involving communities and assisting them in maintaining efficacy and effectiveness in their fight against harmful diseases, the Universal Health Coverage is not just an important tool which reinforces their fight against diseases before they become epidemic but also ensures them of a healthy lifestyle while making them aware about good hygiene and sanitation. This further leads to the fulfilment of the UNICEF’s WASH principle, which is viable in making a region/community hygienic. As mentioned above, this further reinforces the government’s initiative in their pledge to fulfil sustainable development goals which not just covers the goal 1, i.e. eliminating poverty in all forms everywhere followed by goal 3, i.e. promoting healthy lifestyle while ensuring wellbeing’s. This further results in eliminating inequality among the masses which is the SDG Goal 5 and further helps in reducing inequality while promoting gender equality, which is the SDG Goal 10.
Involving Community in strengthening regional and local development
Involving communities through discussion and learning sessions on ways to ensure their environment clean, decreases the spreading of dangerous diseases, which is a first win. Secondly, free health care services maintains interests among the communities, which makes them responsible and aware about their own health. Hence, people in the community are more alert, which makes them more productive and active even in their social space. With a thrust in productivity, there is a substantial increase in their economic situation which further increases their quality of living.
Since, people don’t have to pay for their health care services, they will be less vulnerable towards poverty as they will be able to utilise money elsewhere. It is important to note that, the health care conditions in nations which provide health care coverage is recorded far better than others, they stand ahead in economic quality followed by quality of employment which then makes them more productive and efficient. There is a phenomenal increase in their overall development, which then increases the human development index of not just the state or the region, but the nation as a whole. There is rapid decrease in unemployment with a quality in standard of living.
Inclusion of services in Universal Health Care Coverage
The objective of Universal Health Care coverage is to include all communities irrespective of their economic backgrounds. Many health experts have advocated for provisions for Universal Health Care coverage and the services it should include. The Universal Health Care Coverage must include HIV/AIDS, along with malaria, tuberculosis, and non-communicable diseases while covering pre-natal, post-natal, maternal and child health. A stable and viable Universal Health Care shames not only increases the productivity of the masses, it increases their activeness in the community. All health care services, not limited to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria along with STD must be covered but with respective to a minimum health care budget of least economic developed countries/developing economies continues to pose a grave challenge.
Challenges so far
Before we analyse key challenges, which is creating hindrance in universal health coverage, the background of policy maker’s ability to create a concrete, viable policy is hindered by three main factors:
- Limited Coverage,
- Inadequate budget allocation,
- Inadequate access to Service,
The aforementioned factors adversely compromise the success of universal health care coverage. With the aforementioned factors already in play, no matter how strong willed the political leadership is, the health of the community will not be effected. Moreover, additional factors such as, economic conditions, budget of the nation, education status, area, followed by inter agency cooperation and coordination, effects the success of the health care scheme.
Inadequate health care facilities and health care mechanisms along with overpopulation, inefficiency of medical and emergency response staffs, inadequate doctors, poor transportation, absence of health care staffs, and poor quality of care, denies the success of health care coverage in a region, creating disinterest among regional and local policy makers and local communities.
With poor and inadequate access, adequate health care in rural and urban regions, people are forced to look for a “private” option. WHO estimates that, even the private hospitals are unable to provide adequate facilities to over one-third of the patients admitted, as a result, the household budget exhumes in availing health care facilities, which the private enterprises charge phenomenally for their treatment. Moreover, the health care system provided by local and regional government is distributed, there is hardly availability of all necessary health care needs in a region, which the private sector benefits the most, which lands people to the doors of private medical enterprises, leading to a vacuum in government health care facilities, breaking the link between governance and people.
Inadequate health care for women
Today, the population of developing economies mostly comprises of youths, women and children. They are the most in need of health care services but have inadequate access to it in least developed/developing economic. This is primary due to inadequate incomes and economic dependence on government health care services, which is mostly unavailable. To begin with, most of the women and children admitted in hospitals are scared to leave, which puts the local health care staffs under pressure as the availability to services are few as compared to the needs. Since, the availability of health care schemes are inadequate, under financed, women and children become most vulnerable to diseases such as the Ebola or Zika.
Today, most of the communities in developing economies, have inadequate or no access to medical health care services primarily because of insufficient financial budget. The objective of universal health care coverage is to provide free adequate services to the masses at all times irrespective of their religion or gender or any characteristics. However, many developing economies are carefully drafting health care coverage policies, the aforementioned factors continue to hinder.
It is important for policy makers to understand that, universal health care coverage phenomenally improves health and social welfare of masses. It moreover makes them productive and their families, making them active even in their social circle. This is an effective way for government agencies to monitor overall development of the community. However, for most of the developing economies it requires meticulous planning, policy makers need to be careful especially in the implementation phase as it differs from one nation to another, depending upon demographic dividend and geographic factors followed by climate and economy.
It is in the hands of policy makers to create lucrative plans particularly in allocating finances. They can further involve international aid agencies, such as the UN agencies or those non-governmental organizations actively working in this sector. It is important for them to involve policy experts from think tanks, in an effort to reinforce their health care policies.
|Anant Mishra is a former Youth Representative to the United Nations. He has served extensively in United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council along with the Economic and Social Council. He is also a visiting faculty for numerous universities and delivers lectures on political economics and foreign policies.|
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