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Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage means everyone being able to access free or affordable quality eye health services without putting themselves in financial hardship.

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Overview

The World Health Organization’s priority and the lynchpin of the UNs Sustainable Development Goals is Universal Health Coverage. This means everyone being able to access free or affordable quality health services without putting themselves in financial hardship, wherever or whenever it is needed.

Universal Health Coverage reflects a paradigm shift towards governments taking responsibility for ensuring all people have access to quality health care. It is based on recognition of the right to health for all people and acknowledges the need for strengthened health systems.

There is now wide recognition at the highest levels around the world that Universal Health Coverage cannot be achieved unless it also includes equitable access to eye care services.

The WHO have made clear that Universal Health Coverage cannot be universal without affordable, accessible, high quality comprehensive eye care.

 

Eye health affects a person’s independence, mobility, education and productivity. It has a significant bearing on a person’s physical and mental health and well-being.

However currently, eye care is unaffordable for too many. The importance of comprehensive eye care means that eye health needs to be a key part of universal health coverage.

For example, in parts of East Asia, the patient costs for cataract surgery can be as high as half of the average annual household income.

There must be greater financing allocated to eye health through national health budgets or national insurance schemes.

A minimum package of eye care interventions within Universal Health Coverage would include:

  • funding within national health budgets so everyone can access the services they need without suffering financial hardship
  • promotion, prevention, and refractive services within primary care
  • integration within other services including neonatal care, school eye health, non-communicable eye disease services and care of the elderly
  • specialist ophthalmic services to restore and preserve vision.

This means including comprehensive eye care in social insurance and targeted schemes to reach poor and marginalised groups, and addressing blockages in systems such as insufficient human resources for eye health.

Progressing on eye health in universal health coverage will require maximising financing opportunities and holding governments to account for their responsibilities to provide affordable and accessible health services.

Inclusion of eye health services in insurance can be the most effective means to promote scale-up and better reach those most in need.

As health systems are increasingly financed from domestic sources, and as schemes advance and availability of services increases, eye health in universal health coverage will be vital to reducing avoidable blindness.

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