The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well being for humans of all ages. Putting this in proper context means well-being before an individual is conceived – promotion of safe sexual practices, availability of contraception and the right to make informed decisions about our reproductive health; appropriate antenatal care services that go a long way to improve our present unsatisfactory global neonatal mortality rate of 19 deaths per 1000 live births in 2015. This also extends to baby care practices like vaccinations, breastfeeding and baby growth monitoring among others. Adolescent reproductive health comes next, and in the same spectrum lies mental health issues like substance abuse and adolescent response to various forms of bullying; especially in an internet age when the bullies now sleep and wake with the victim- in form of social media. The list then extends to communicable and non communicable diseases that can be found in adults, and not the least the health demands of seniors. In countries with strong militaries that make up an entire demographic, veterans health is a big concern. Achieving the aims of SDG 3 is daunting, but big progress has been made by countries and international bodies in the push towards a healthier human race.
<Alade Temidayo Qasim>
After the second World War, most European countries saw the mass reorganization of their societies as an opportunity to ensure health coverage for all their citizens. These were the first steps to ensure universal health coverage since Bismarck created his welfare state in the defunct German Empire in the 19th century. Many countries sought a health system that ensured all their citizens had access to health care relative to their health needs without necessarily compromising quality and exposing them to financial difficulties. Utilization relative to need, financial protection and equity in finance; and healthcare that has enough quality to be effective are the central ideas in how universal health coverage was described by the World Health Report of 2010.
Utilization relative to need refers to people getting the healthcare and services they require at a certain point in time. This spans through all stages of care- prevention, promotion, evaluation, treatment (either definitive or palliative), rehabilitation, and even surveillance services. This is actually quite difficult to ensure without compromising the two other core issues in UHC- financial stability and quality. Providing the best services is expensive; providing just about any service because it’s needed at that particular time may water down the quality of the care significantly. Therefore, the challenge lies not in whether governments can provide services, but whether those services will still be of the highest standards without exposing the people to undue financial risks. This unwillingness to trade off one core objective for another lies at the center of why UHC is difficult to implement. That quality healthcare cannot be cheap is a truth known to all. With that knowledge as the foundation of a push towards UHC, governments in each country can then draft specific health financing policies that are peculiar to that particular country; in a way that can guarantee quality healthcare for all.
Seeing UHC and health for all as a pipe dream is not pessimism, just realism that refuses to get examined. With the right steps taken to raise the funds needed to provide these services; with appropriate pooling and allocation of this scarce resources, the purchasing of the most essential services will not pose much of a problem as long as the benefit packages are designed in a very pragmatic way to favour the majority of people in the pool. UHC is possible, and will be our answer to a healthier and happier generation.