12th December marks Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day. Bringing together 864 organisations from 117 countries it recalls the United Nations’ unanimous commitment to Universal Health Coverage in its resolution of 12 December 2012 The UHC Day is the first and only international awareness day devoted to fulfilling the human right to health without financial hardship.
According to the WHO definition, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.[i]
As an effective strategy to fulfil the human right to health, UHC strongly backs the #HealthForAll agenda set by the Alma Ata declaration in 1978. Beyond being a specific target in the Sustainable Development Goals (3.8.), UHC cuts across all health-related Goals. Target 3.8. specifically mentions the “access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all” as an important component of Universal Health Coverage.
The Lancet’s Commission on Essential Medicines recently published their report on Essential Medicines for Universal Health Coverage. The report identifies five key areas to be addressed in essential medicines policies
· Paying for a basket of essential medicines to promote sustainable access for all
· Making essential medicines affordable to achieve equity in access
· Assuring the quality and safety of medicines to prevent harm to patients
· Promoting quality use of medicines for better health outcomes
· Developing missing essential medicines and making them accessible to all
All the five areas correspond with the three related objectives embodied by the UHC definition, which are (1) Equity in access to health services – everyone who needs services should get them, not only those who can pay for them, (2) The quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving services, and (3) People should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put people at risk of financial harm. [i]
For many years IAPB has worked to support members and partners – especially in low- and middle-income settings – in their procurement of appropriate, affordable high-quality medicines with the aim to increase access to essential eye care medicines and treatment for people living in poverty. The recently relaunched IAPB Standard List identifies respective products in collaboration with leading experts from around the world, and builds on customers’ feedback.
It is a great platform to compare eye health products and technologies. As an independent source the IAPB Standard List is effectively addressing three out of the five key areas identified by the Lancet Commission: Making medicines affordable, ensuring quality of medicines and promoting quality use of medicines.
IAPB Members advocate in low- and middle-income countries for the inclusion of essential eye care medicines, listed in the WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines, in benefit packages provided by the public sector and all health insurance schemes to reduce out-of-pocket spending on medicines and eye surgical consumables.
By developing further and promoting the IAPB Standard List, advocacy on national health financing policies, and calling to address the existing gap of access to affordable medicines to effectively treat all eye health conditions in low- and middle-income settings, the IAPB continues to strongly promote #HealthForAll and Universal Health Coverage to achieve the future we want by 2030.