Universal coverage and health system strengthening
Strengthening health systems is essential for ensuring progress toward universal coverage (UC). Moving towards UC involves reducing the gap between need and service use, improving quality, and improving financial protection. Health financing policies play a critical role, but progress on these UC objectives requires coordinated action across health system building blocks such as:
- health service delivery systems
- human resources for health
- medicine procurement and distribution mechanisms
- health information systems, and
Such action is required to address the specific barriers to progress that may exist in any country. This is fully aligned with the primary health care approach, which requires health sector and intersectoral reforms that put people's health needs at the centre.
National health plans and strategies are key elements for health system strengthening.
Access to and affordability of medicine is a major problem in many contexts. The Millennium Development Goal 8, Target 8.E, focuses on the access to essential medicine and WHO with other partners have been tracking countries on progress against this target.
Shortages and unbalanced distribution of health workforce are obstacles to the capacity of health systems to respond to the challenge of universal coverage.
Robust health information systems are essential for countries to correctly assess their situation regarding universal coverage follow up and monitor the reforms. In addition, a nationally unified or inter-operable health information system greatly facilitates progress towards universal coverage, particularly when this is linked to provider payment systems.