Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is about ensuring people have access to the health care services they need, when they need them, without suffering financial hardship. UHC includes the full spectrum of health services from health promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. This also means having a qualified workforce of trained and motivated health workers.
When countries invest in UHC, they are investing in their greatest asset: people. Good health keeps people out of poverty and allows them to fully contribute to their families and communities. Men and women can go to work and children can go to school and learn. Good health enables prosperity for all.
A common misconception of UHC is the notion that all health services are available to everyone for free, regardless of the cost. Each country has its own path to achieving UHC. What coverage looks like will depend on a country’s resources and the needs of its people. It is important to note that UHC emphasizes the importance of access to health services and information as a basic human right.
UHC is not a new concept, it is based on the 1948 WHO Constitution which declares health a fundamental human right and commits to ensuring the highest attainable level of health for all. In recent years UHC has gained significant momentum. In 2019, at the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders adopted the goal of working together to achieve UHC by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted health systems globally. Countries everywhere have experienced shortages of hospital beds, medical supplies and health care workers. It has exposed gaps in public health care and has exasperated inequities. Many of the gains achieved towards achieving UHC have been lost due to the pandemic. The time to act is now.
Eye health, a critical component of UHC, has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Over 2.2 billion people globally suffer from vision impairment or blindness. Avoidable blindness is a global issue that has been made even worse by the strain COVID-19 has put on health systems particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
The pandemic has brought many challenges, but it also brings an opportunity to re-think how we deliver health care and services. At Operation Eyesight, we are focused on ensuring our hospital partners and community health workers can deliver care in a safe environment by protecting themselves and their patients. Looking ahead to 2021, we are imagining new ways to bring affordable, sustainable, quality eye health care to more people than ever before. This includes innovations and technologies to bring eye health services closer to communities, reducing the need to travel long distances to reach a hospital.
Operation Eyesight is committed to providing the highest quality of care to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. We work to address the root causes of avoidable blindness and remove barriers to access to care for women, girls, men and boys. In celebration of UHC Day 2020, we invite you to join us in eliminating avoidable blindness for the most vulnerable. Together, we have an opportunity to build a safer and healthier future for all.
WHO. (2019, October). World Report on Vision.