Countries of the Americas hold national consultations to make universal health coverage a regional priority

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Washington, D.C., 16 July 2014 (PAHO/WHO) -

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The countries of the Americas are holding national consultations to discuss the way forward to reach universal health coverage, with the support of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

National health authorities and other health sector actors are participating in the dialogues, which will help shape a regional roadmap for achieving universal health coverage that will be submitted for the approval of the 53rd PAHO Directing Council in September. Consultations have already been held in 27 countries and are scheduled to be held in four others in the coming weeks.

“Universal health coverage is a means to attain health and well-being for all people. It is based on the right of every person to enjoy optimal health, with equity and solidarity, and it is responsibility of all governments,” said PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne. “PAHO is supporting national, subregional, and regional consultations that facilitate a broad dialogue so that all the voices of the Americas, including those of the most vulnerable groups, can be heard during this process.”

Universal health coverage means that all people and communities have equitable access to the comprehensive and guaranteed quality services that they need, throughout the course of their lives, without financial hardship.

Seeking innovative solutions

The consultations are led by national health authorities, who are inviting representatives from ministries of finance, education, and the environment; the legislative and judicial sectors; academia; civil society; and development partners, including other United Nations agencies.

PAHO helped develop a series of questions that are being addressed in the consultations to ascertain how best—in each country—to expand equitable access to comprehensive, quality, and people- and community-centered health services. Questions also address how to strengthen management of health systems to ensure participation, accountability, and monitoring, among other aspects.

A central challenge to universal health coverage addressed in the consultations is how to increase and improve health systems financing, to ensure equitable access to services and efficient service delivery, while at the same time eliminating out-of-pocket spending, or direct payments at the point of service. The consultations are also examining mechanisms to strengthen intersectoral action to address social determinants of health, such as economic conditions and social exclusion.

“In this discussion, we encourage participants to consider not only problems and obstacles but also innovative solutions and approaches that make it possible for us to advance toward universal health coverage,” said Etienne.

A proposed strategy incorporating input from the consultations will be presented to ministers of health from PAHO Member States at the 53rd PAHO Directing Council on 29 September to 3 October.
PAHO works with the member countries to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the Americas. Founded in 1902, PAHO is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It serves as the World Health Organization’s regional office for the Americas and is the Inter-American system’s specialized agency in health.

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