WHO Director-General champions universal health coverage

Dr. Margaret Chan appointed for second term as WHO Director-General. (photo source:WHO)

“Universal health coverage is the ultimate expression of fairness,” stressed Dr. Margaret Chan in her acceptance speech for her second five-year term as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) during the World Health Assembly last May 23, 2012.

The Director-General cited health systems and capacity building; chronic non-communicable diseases, mental health and disabilities; health security; health development for poverty reduction; access to medical products and improving WHO performance through reform as specific priorities she will pursue in the next five years of her term. She also promised to continue her commitment in improving the health of the most vulnerable. “I will be fully supporting every woman, every child as well as a growing number of initiatives to improve health in Africa, and beyond. I will be giving more emphasis to the prevention of domestic violence, as part of my commitment to women.”

To sustain the progress in health made during the past decade, the WHO Director-General advocates for universal health coverage. “Universal health coverage is the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer. It is a powerful equalizer that abolishes distinctions between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the marginalized, the young and the old, ethnic groups, and women and men. The best way to cement the gains made during the past decade,” said Director-General Chan.

According to the WHO Director-General, the universal coverage is a comprehensive solution to the greatest challenges of the health systems such as poor access to essential medicines especially affordable generic products, emphasis on cure that leaves prevention aside, costly private care for the privileged few, inadequate numbers or wrong mix of health personnel, crappy or inappropriate information system, weak regulatory control and schemes for financing care that punish the poor.

At present, countries that achieved universal health coverage are organizing international conferences in solidarity with other countries moving in the same direction. Germany, for instance, launched the 2010 World Health Report on health system financing which encourage others to adopt and move towards the attainment of universal health coverage. “Universal health coverage is the anchor for the work of WHO as we move forward,” said Dr. Chan.

Inspired by the increasing initiatives of countries at different levels of economic development around the globe in reforming their health systems with equity as a goal, the Director-General said, “I am deeply encouraged by what almost looks like a movement to operationalize universal health coverage. This is a bright spot of hope for billions of people in a profoundly unfair world.”