Health financing for universal coverage

What is universal coverage?

Universal coverage (UC), or universal health coverage (UHC), is defined as ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.

This definition of UC embodies three related objectives:

  • equity in access to health services - those who need the services should get them, not only those who can pay for them;
  • that the quality of health services is good enough to improve the health of those receiving services; and
  • financial-risk protection - ensuring that the cost of using care does not put people at risk of financial hardship.

Universal coverage brings the hope of better health and protection from poverty for hundreds of millions of people - especially those in the most vulnerable situations.

Universal coverage is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948 declaring health a fundamental human right and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma‑Ata declaration in 1978. Achieving the health Millennium Development Goals and the next wave of targets looking beyond 2015 will depend largely on how countries succeed in moving towards universal coverage.