Universal health coverage consultations

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says countries of the Americas, including the Caribbean, are holding national consultations to discuss the way forward to reach universal health coverage.

With its support, PAHO said national health authorities and other health sector actors are participating in the dialogues, which will help shape a regional roadmap for achieving universal health coverage that will be submitted for the approval of the 53rd PAHO Directing Council in September.

Consultations have already been held in 27 countries and are scheduled to be held in four others in the coming weeks, PAHO said.

“Universal health coverage is a means to attain health and well-being for all people. It is based on the right of every person to enjoy optimal health, with equity and solidarity, and it is responsibility of all governments,” said PAHO Dominican-born director Carissa F. Etienne.

“PAHO is supporting national, sub-regional, and regional consultations that facilitate a broad dialogue so that all the voices of the Americas, including those of the most vulnerable groups, can be heard during this process,” she added.

PAHO said universal health coverage means that all people and communities have equitable access to the comprehensive and guaranteed quality services that they need, throughout the course of their lives, without financial hardship.

Etienne said the consultations are led by national health authorities, who are inviting representatives from ministries of finance, education, and the environment; the legislative and judicial sectors; academia; civil society; and development partners, including other United Nations agencies.

PAHO said it helped develop a series of questions that are being addressed in the consultations to ascertain how best-in each country-to expand equitable access to comprehensive, quality, and people-and community-centered health services.

Questions also address how to strengthen management of health systems to ensure participation, accountability, and monitoring, among other aspects, PAHO said.

It said a central challenge to universal health coverage addressed in the consultations is how to increase and improve health systems financing, to ensure equitable access to services and efficient service delivery, while at the same time eliminating out-of-pocket spending, or direct payments at the point of service.

The PAHO director said the consultations are also examining mechanisms to strengthen inter-sectoral action to address social determinants of health, such as economic conditions and social exclusion.

“In this discussion, we encourage participants to consider not only problems and obstacles but also innovative solutions and approaches that make it possible for us to advance toward universal health coverage,” Etienne said.

She said a proposed strategy incorporating input from the consultations will be presented to ministers of health from PAHO member states at the 53rd PAHO Directing Council on Sept. 29 to Oct. 3.

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