The Keys to Universal Health Coverage
by Jakaya Kikwete–DAR ES SALAAM – It has been three years since world leaders committed to one of the boldest goals ever set in global public health: achieving universal health coverage by 2030. Achieving this objective will mean that every person in every community has access to affordable care, both to prevent them from falling ill and to treat them when they do.
The stakes are simply too high not to deliver on this promise. We cannot eradicate poverty, protect people from pandemics, advance gender equality, or achieve any of the other 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without accelerating progress toward universal health coverage.
Fortunately, national leaders are starting to take concrete steps toward expanding access to health care. As I, along with many others, have come to realize, success depends on first overcoming one of the most significant challenges in health: overly fragmented approaches to delivering care. Instead of treating one disease at a time, we need to establish systems in which people’s diverse health needs are treated side by side. Every woman should be able to turn to a trusted provider in her community to receive family planning services for herself, routine immunizations for her children, or diabetes treatments for an aging relative.
The best way for countries to achieve a more integrated approach is to strengthen primary care, which is most people’s first point of contact with the health system. Primary-care providers can address more than 80% of health needs. And because primary care is delivered to rich and poor alike, it is the foundation of a fair and equitable society.