Universal access to health care: What does it mean?

Big words are trending in policy debates. 'Universal access to Health Care': what does it even mean? TWHA launches its new dossier to determine what is essential to achieve the universal right to health.
In fact, 1.3 billion people on the planet have no affordable and effective access to health care.

There are large disparities in health between developing and rich countries. Low and middle-income countries bear 90% of the global burden of disease, but account for only 12% of global spending on health. In other words, the most vulnerable people with the greatest health needs have poor access to health care. In fact, 1.3 billion people on the planet have no affordable and effective access to health care.

The importance of non-health factors as major predictors of health has long been recognized. The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health concluded its 2008 Report stating that “social injustice is killing people on a grand scale and poses a greater threat to public health than a lack of doctors, medicines or health services” (World Health Organisation 2008). If the health system is not the only responsible for health, then what is its place in the complex web of interrelated factors that influence health? Above all, what is the strength and the responsibility of the health system in addressing the multiple forces that impact upon health?


In this module, we focus on the role of the health system in reducing this health gap. We start by defining the main components of a health system and how they interact in improving health outcomes. We then open the discussion by unpacking today’s dominant global health agenda, universal health coverage, and how its prescriptions for health financing obscures essential aspects of healthcare provision and give undue influence to private actors followed by a situation of the current debate in history.
Finally, case studies from developing countries examine whether health reforms have led to better health equity in a sustainable, accountable and efficient manner.

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