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Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC), 2018: A way to freedom and healthy lives

Doctors providing medical service to the elderly citizens in a health camp

BY MS. PRAPTI GAUTAM
Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC) is celebrated annually on December 12 to ensure all people can access the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It has become a crucial point in a global health conversation to achieve Health for All. It has a vision where all the citizens around the world can enjoy:
a) Effective health care system that focuses both preventive and curative medicine
b) Availability of health care services
c) Accessible to the health care services and to relevant medicines
d) Health care services at affordable price
Universal health coverage is a key to bring equality in health for all. In Nepal, just handful of act has been implemented for the betterment of health. It is time that we open our eyes to significant role that UHC can play in improving health outcomes, promote gender equality, economic growth and eventually reduce poverty.
More than 100 million people around the world are pushed into poverty every year due to health expenditure. The solution for this problem lies within the government where coordination and collaboration with private health care must be made in order to provide health services in a cost-effective manner.
In Nepal social heath security programme is implemented in 15 districts out of 75 (2017). Among those 15 districts only 5% people are covered by health insurance till now whereas, 95% of them pay for their health care by themselves. Illness acts as a huge burden on these people who lack social health protection to cover their treatment cost. Many people forego treatment due to high expenditure which makes them to avoid treatment or sacrifice other basic necessities such as food, clothes, and education for their children.
According to WHO, around 85% of the cost to meet the SDG target including UHC can be achieved by utilizing domestic resources. I the resources are used effectively it could increase life expectancy by up to 8.4 additional years in some countries.
Elderly in UHC
Ageing population has challenged the attainment of universal health coverage (UHC) due to the unprecedented increase in the elder population. There has been increasing demand for healthcare due to high prevalence of disabilities and morbidity in older age. In middle and low income countries with poor social security system, it often led older people to finance themselves for healthcare spending. Older people need more medical attention and it often incurs greater cost when seeking healthcare.
Although every country has its own strategy to achieve UHC, it requires a step that can be taken forwards to develop the plan and polices that is more inclusive for older people. For e.g.; ensuring essential medicines and assistive devices for those who are care dependent. For this, policy makers should reduce the cost of the treatment and medicine in order to reduce financial burden due to health costs.
Universal health insurance therefore can be considered as an important component of financial protection as it intends to provide healthcare affordable and accessible to all the citizens. It is one of the ways that ensures that we “Leave no one behind” as we move towards UHC.
(The writer is the health officer at the Ageing Nepal.)

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