World Bank preps universal health care coverage tool

A woman gets her blood pressure checked at a provincial health department in Turkey. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

The World Bank plans to launch a tool later this year to help countries work toward universal health care.

Universal health care coverage is said to be under consideration to become part of the post-2015 global development agenda. In December, the United Nations adopted a resolution on universal health care, a decision that advocates hailed as historic since it surprisingly won broad support from the global north and south.

The World Bank says it is now testing what it calls UNICAT, a tool meant to help countries evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as they work toward universal coverage. It was developed following a study on 22 countries that “have significantly expanded access to health care in the last decade.”

The study covered the experience of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and Vietnam. It noted that four-fifths of these countries use similar instruments — with strong political backing — such as a clearly defined benefits package, an expansion of coverage funded by general taxation, enrolment requirements and the reformd providion of public health services.

“These case studies are an invaluable resource for countries that aspire to achieve universal health coverage in ways that are fiscally sustainable and that enhance both equity and efficiency — toward the goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity,” said Nicole Klingen, World Bank acting director for health, nutrition and population, in a statement Feb. 14. “Whatever path countries choose, universal health coverage is key to prevent people from falling into poverty due to illness, and to give everyone the opportunity to live healthier, more productive lives — regardless of ability to pay.”

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.