Reaching the hard to reach: How to make universal health coverage a reality for all

16 October 2019 ¦ Belgrade, Serbia

Photo courtesy of IPU: Panel on “reaching the hard to reach”.

PMNCH, WHO and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, on the sidelines of the 141st IPU Assembly, brought partners together for an event on “Reaching the hard-to-reach: How to make UHC a reality for all?”

The aim of the event was to share best practices and challenges of parliamentary action in turning the "leave no one behind" pledge into practice as efforts are put in place to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and SDG3. This conversation took place as the IPU discussed a resolution on the role of parliamentarians in achieving UHC; and it provided a space for sharing of best practices and discussing practical implementation.

The event opened with a presentation of WHO on UHC Law which stressed that no one law is able to secure UHC, rather, that a series of laws that promote equitable access, health care quality and financial protection need to be put in place to create an enabling environment for achieving UHC.

Dr Flavia Bustreo, Chair of the PMNCH Governance and Nomination Committee noted the need for parliamentarians to promote the use of disaggregated data to ensure policies and finances that address the right interventions and the right populations. She also reminded the audience that health spending should be regarded as an investment, noting that “an analysis of the returns from investing in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health in 74 high-burden countries found a projected benefit–cost ratio of 8.7 to 1, based on a per capita expenditure of less than US $5.

Parliamentarians shared their solutions on how to drive progress on the SDGs by reaching marginalized populations, but also agreed on the common idea that allocating funds for the protection of the health of women, children and adolescents is not an expenditure, but an investment. For instance, a delegate from France mentioned how social security is based on residence and not employment. Cuba’s delegate spoke about the inequality of the Americas region and how Cuba has been able to provide UHC by making health a human right in their constitution and placing 27% of the national budget in public health.

David Imbago Jácome, PMNCH Board representative of the Adolescent and Youth Constituency, in his closing remarks, reminded participants that adolescent deaths worldwide are preventable and treatable, however restrictive laws are a barrier for them to access health services. He urged parliamentarians to eliminate discriminatory laws and mobilize resources for the most vulnerable or “hard to reach”.

Accountability will be the center of the next phase of this common work between IPU and PMNCH.