Prioritizing the public purse for universal health coverage

Dr. Agnès Soucat, the World Health Organization's director of health systems governance and financing, tells Devex why UHC should be seen as a political matter, and how health should be given priority when it comes to the public purse.

NEW YORK — Universal health coverage is an ambitious yet achievable goal, but it won't come cheap. In order to achieve UHC, significant public, as well as private, funding is needed.

In conversation with Devex, Dr. Agnès Soucat, the World Health Organization's director of health systems governance and financing, said health should be given priority when it comes to the public purse.

Towards UHC: Thinking public – Overview of trends in public expenditure on health (2000-2014), offers a comprehensive analysis of public financing for health in lower- and middle-income countries. The study reveals that there is no evidence of an effective transition from private to public financing for health in low-income countries. It highlights the importance of tracking domestically funded public expenditure separately from external sources in future data collection.

“If we want an efficient system that provides services to the poorest and most disadvantaged, then public financing is essential,” she explained, adding that UHC should be seen as primarily a political matter. “Between the availability of funding that the economy of a country could sustain, and the policy that will lead for that funding to be pulled into a collective mechanism through taxation, there is a space for policy and politics.”

Published this year, the WHO publication Towards UHC: thinking public provides an overview of the trends in public expenditure on health between 2000 and 2014. The publication assesses the changing relationship between domestic public financing for health and the economy, the budget and overall sector financing. It calls for a renewed emphasis on putting domestic funds at the core of future health financing policy.

Watch the video above for more insights on why health should be set as a public financing priority.

How do we ensure that people worldwide get the care they need without the risk of being pushed further into poverty? Devex explores the path to universal health coverage. Join us as we ask what it will take to achieve UHC for all by visiting our Healthy Horizons site and tagging #HealthyHorizons, #Health4All and @Devex.

The content, information, opinions, and viewpoints in this Healthy Horizons content series are those of the authors or contributors of such materials. Content produced as part of the series does not represent an endorsement of the contributing institutions or their positions, nor does it imply the existence of any relationship or engagement among them in connection with this series.

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