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World health report 2010: the path to universal coverage

3 December 2010 -- The World health report 2010 focuses on how to pay for health care. The report looks at how to raise sufficient funds, how to raise funds fairly and how to get better value for money by becoming more efficient.

Transcript of the podcast

Veronica Riemer: You're listening to the WHO podcast and my name is Veronica Riemer. In this episode we look at the recently published World health report, which focuses on how to pay for health care.

David Evans: The report is about money, money and health. We all know that money is tight, but money is tight for health in particular.

Veronica Riemer: David Evans is WHO's Director for Health Systems Financing. He explained the financial constraints in both the rich and developing world.

David Evans: In rich countries it is tight not just because of the financial crisis, but it is tight because we are all getting older and with more chronic diseases. New medicines and technologies that can extend or give better quality of life are also being developed at higher cost all the time.

In low-income countries the problems are very different, the first problem is that they are poor, so resources and health services are not available in many parts of the world. Moreover, when people use those health services they have to pay on the spot. This prevents probably a billion people each year using the services that they need and about one hundred million, when they pay for the services that they get, are pushed under the poverty line.

Veronica Riemer: Simon Wright, Head of Health at Save the Children, explained how the cost of health services can have a damaging effect on family life.

Simon Wright: We have seen many examples of families who, when somebody becomes sick, have to look at where they can access money in order to pay for that health care. There is not any kind of fair system of sharing out the costs. If somebody gets sick in the family it has a devastating effect. We see families who have to sell animals, have to sell property, have to take on other work, there have undoubtedly been connections with sex industry from women having to seek income in order to pay for health care fees.

Veronica Riemer: Governments worldwide are struggling to pay for health care. Taking evidence from all over the world, this year's World health report shows how all countries can adjust their health financing mechanisms so more people get the health care they need and move closer to universal health care coverage.

David Evans: We outline options for countries in three areas: how to raise sufficient funds or more funds, where that's needed, how to raise them fairly so that people can use the services that they need and how to get better value for money by getting more efficient.

Veronica Riemer: Dr Margaret Chan, WHO's Director-General spoke of the importance of health financing at the launch of the report in Berlin.

Dr Margaret Chan: In my view, universal coverage is an admirable goal and a timely one and we have to bite the bullet. If health systems do not find the right answers now, the bill further down the line is going to keep getting higher and bigger.

Veronica Riemer: The report encourages every country in the world to adopt at least some policies that will extend coverage to more people, and reduce the numbers who risk financial ruin because of health care costs.

Veronica Riemer: If you would like to read the World health report 2010, please see the links on the transcript page of this podcast.

That's all for this episode. Thanks for listening. For the World Health Organization, this is Veronica Riemer in Geneva.

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