Universal health coverage requires quality healthcare access for stigmatized populations

Published: December 12, 2014

Science Speaks
Antigone Barton
Original Article:  bit.ly/1IKHj9L

In order to celebrate progress and hold leaders accountable, the global community has recognized December 12th as Universal Health Coverage Day. According to the World Health Organization, the goal of universal health coverage is, “to ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.” Universal health coverage (UHC) requires long-term planning, development, political commitment. It also requires the recognition that every country has diverse citizenry with unique needs – particularly when addressing sexual and reproductive health. Universal health coverage requires an understanding that “one size does not fit all.”

Governments and country stakeholders continue to explore the best ways to finance health care for their people. Preventing catastrophic health costs for the world’s poorest and most marginalized is a fundamental goal. Many countries have started this process and are strategizing how best to increase the depth (proportion of services covered), breadth (extent of the population covered), and height (extent of financial protection) of health coverage, while making trade-offs across these three dimensions. This includes identifying the means of financing, designing benefit packages, and identifying coverage targets, yet they are not the only pressing needs countries have in achieving UHC.

Healthcare workers, through prejudice and/or lack of knowledge often deny services to patients. Fear of stigma and discrimination alone often prevents sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgendered persons, or people who inject drugs from looking to access health services. These conditions, unless addressed, will prevent countries from ever being able to truly achieve universal health coverage. As the global community works to achieve a major global goal with universal health care – an “AIDS-Free Generation” – key populations at risk of HIV are too-often being denied access to basic services due to lack of investment, violence, criminalization and social marginalization. Promising approaches to overcome this are being tested in countries by engaging civil society organizations to complement the limited capacity of overburdened healthcare workers to reach out to the poor and marginalized and bring them into the health system.

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1IKHj9L

 

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