universal health coverage

Wemos focuses on strengthening health systems to achieve universal health coverage. Everyone, anywhere, should have access to essential health services or commodities when needed, delivered by qualified health professionals, without financial hardship. This page explains what universal health coverage is about and what should be done to realize it.

All countries have agreed to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, following the internationally adopted agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This entails that using essential health services should not lead to financial hazard, for example due to high health expenses. Everyone – rich or poor – and everywhere – urban or rural – should have access to a health worker or essential medicines. Universal health coverage is a crucial determinant of health and a public responsibility, prioritizing those who have least access.


However, in many low- and middle-income countries, health care is neither geographically nor financially accessible for all. Patients are driven into poverty due to high health care expenses for treatment, or cannot reach the health clinic in time because it is half a day’s trip away by foot.


Paying for universal health coverage

Governments are responsible for creating the right conditions for their citizens’ health and should dedicate a fair amount of their resources to public health and universal health coverage. Recently, a group of international health financing experts called upon governments to combine a relative spending target (of at least 5% of their countries’ gross domestic product (GDP)) with an absolute target (no less than USD86 per capita) for essential primary health care services.


However, for many low- and middle-income countries these measures would not be sufficient and they would still face gaps in their budgets. No low-income countries and only a few lower middle income countries would reach the minimum spending target of USD86 per capita, even if they allocated 5% of their GDP to health. We therefore believe that the international community should step in and contribute to the national pool of resources to strengthen these countries’ health systems. The international funds should create a conducive macroeconomic environment.


We can achieve universal health coverage only if countries and donors finance health in such a way that:

  • a higher proportion of domestic resources is allocated to financing health systems, including human resources for health;
  • external resources are invested in the national health plan to fill the financing gap,
  • national and international resources are pooled to fund one national health plan, to minimize inefficiencies in spending.

For more information, take a look at our infographic: Paying for Universal Health Coverage