Conference Theme: Accelerating Universal Health Coverage: Priorities, Opportunities and Challenges
With the adoption of the Social Development Goals, the international community has committed to ensuring healthy lives and promoting the health and wellbeing of all at all ages through achieving universal health coverage (UHC). UHC is aimed at ensuring that all people have the health care services they need, of sufficient quality to impact on health outcomes, without suffering financial hardship when paying for them. UHC is a critical component of sustainable development and poverty reduction, which are essential for the growth of societies that are equitable, inclusive and resilient. These are fundamental to reducing gender inequities and ensuring social protection for all; and also, evidence of a government’s commitment to improving the wellbeing of all its citizens and promoting health security and social cohesion.
UHC is now driving the global health agenda. Most African countries have integrated UHC as a goal into their national strategies. However, translation of these commitments into improved funding, equitable and quality health services and financial protection for all has remained slow and very challenging. Countries that are able to achieve UHC targets by 2030 will eliminate preventable maternal and child deaths, significantly reduce the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, reduce financial hardship and catastrophe resulting from illness and strengthen resilience to public health emergencies thus building the foundations for long economic growth.
There is no single strategy for the attainment of UHC – strategies will depend on local contexts and national dialogue. While challenges abound, there has been variable progress between and within countries. The conference will offer an opportunity to share experiences and assess the progress made towards UHC in the region, challenges being faced and exploring opportunities for accelerating progress towards UHC in the subregion.
- To assess the status of implementation of strategies for attainment of universal health coverage in the Near East and African Region, sharing experiences and identifying challenges/constraints and proffering practical solutions
- To explore strategies for moving from rhetoric to concrete actions for accelerating achievement of universal coverage, including necessary changes in institutional mechanisms in the region
- To present and discuss most recent advances, innovations, constraints/challenges encountered and practical solutions towards provision of UHC across the sub-regions.
- To identify and agree on strategies for strengthening health care systems, especially at primary health care level, reducing inequities and providing people-centered quality essential health care services.
- To present and discuss new knowledge, skills, opportunities and gaps in strategies for attaining UHC by 2030 and the effect on women, children, adolescent/young people, the elderly including those living in emergency and difficult circumstances and other vulnerable groups
- To strengthen key stakeholders’ commitment and secure political agreements that promote UHC for all people in the Near East and Africa Region
- To build mutually collaborative partnerships, alliances and coalitions that advance UHC in the context of SDGs
Proposed Subthemes (Tracks)
Track 1 Context of Universal Health Coverage in the subregion
- Strengthened capacities of participating countries in the Near East and African Region to champion and advocate for attainment of UHC
- Showcase practical, evidence-based and affordable models of interventions that work towards enhancing UHC among all persons in the sub-regions.
- Identified and prioritized for adoption funding opportunities, mechanisms and health financing options that are required to provide UHC.
- Harness and establish database of expertise on all issues affecting the health and overall wellbeing of the most vulnerable, marginalized and excluded groups of people in order to harness the needed resource-base for attaining UHC across the sub-regions.
- Identified and expanded initiatives in development, governance and support of critical health systems and infrastructure required to deliver UHC for improved survival and general wellbeing of all people in the sub-region.
Despite commitment by governments to making UHC a reality, the region still lacks behind in terms of health indices. Health systems are having to respond to rising and aging populations with complex needs; these are escalating the already acute unmet needs. There are very wide variations in health status and coverage with health care services within and between countries. This track will explore:
Track 2 Social determinants of health and health equity
- Where we are with UHC in the region: trends in service coverage and across service domains and implications for UHC
- Country patterns in service coverage
- Universal Health Coverage as a driver of equity and inclusive development for all.
- Lessons and experiences from countries in approaches towards UHC
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underlines the importance of addressing social determinants, which are key to determining both health risks, inequities and health outcomes. Thus, social determinants are crucial to UHC efforts. This subtheme aims to address the following issues:
Track 3 Health financing for UHC
- Health inequities and their determinants in the region
- Addressing social determinants and equity in health systems and programmes
- Intersectoral planning for health and health equity: experiences, challenges and lessons learned
- Life factors and practices
- Health in all policies: perspectives and intersectoral actions in the region
- Challenges and new opportunities for addressing the social determinants of health agenda
- Social participation for effective and equitable UHC
- Gender Equality and rights of women as drivers of health
Financial protection requires that health services are funded in a way that protects individuals and households from adverse effects to their economic livelihood due to paying for healthcare, which mainly arise from out-of-pocket (OOP) payments. Promoting equity in the financing and use of health services is a key element of moving towards UHC. Issues to be addressed in this track are:
Track 4: Improving quality of health care for UHC
- Regional trends in financial protection
- Inequities and inequalities in health financing
- Raising revenues for health to support UHC
- Linking financial protection needs to service coverage, unmet needs and service quality
- Models of financing arrangements that improve equity, fairness, service quality and financial risk protection
- From scheme to system: social health insurance schemes for transforming health financing
- Improving efficiency in resource utilization
Even with increase in service coverage, health improvements will remain elusive if quality of care is not addressed. The success and value of UHC depends on its ability to provide safe, efficient, quality services to all people, everywhere. Issues to be explored in this section are:
Track 5 : Building strong, resilient and sustainable health services delivery systems for UHC
- Expanding access to access to affordable medicines and health products and health technology
- Improving patient safety and risk management
- Sustainable quality improvement approaches
- Infection prevention and control
- Stewardship of antimicrobials and antitmicrobial resistance
- Needs based essential health care packages
- Challenges and dilemmas in achieving UHC for NCDs
Health service delivery systems that are safe, accessible, high quality, people-centred, and integrated are critical for moving towards universal health coverage. Quality of care is the foundation of a resilience health system.
Track 6: Promoting the health of women and girls
- Refocusing community and primary health care services as the foundation for UHC
- Innovating to meet the health needs of vulnerable and marginalized groups
- Expanding engagement with non-state actors
- Making health systems gender-responsive and equitable
- Implementing International Health Regulations and service delivery models that promote resilience and health security
- Surveillance, emergency preparedness and response
- Innovations in service delivery
Achieving UHC is not possible if there is no significant investments in the health of women, girls, adolescents and other marginalized groups, that is no one is left behind. This subtheme will explore the following:
Track 7: Human Resources for Health: foundations for universal health coverage
- Status and trends of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in the region
- Sexual and reproductive rights
- Addressing the health needs of women and girls throughout their lifecycle
- Gender-related barriers to accessing reproductive health information and services
- Sexual and gender-based violence
- Protecting the rights, health and safety of the female workforce
Human resources play a seminal role in the attainment of universal health coverage as the functionality of a health system, expansion of service coverage and enjoyment of highest level of attainment health is dependent on their availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality. This track will explore HRH investment, production, deployment and retention required to achieve UHC. In the region with a focus on:
Track 8: Governance and accountability
- Inequities in health workforce: implications for health and UHC
- Optimising performance, quality and impact of health workforce through evidence-based policies for health
- Human resources for primary health care in the region: progress or stagnation
- Scaling up health workforce innovations to promote equity, diversity and inclusion
- Enhancing the capacities of frontline health workers
- Improving access to health services through effective retention and distribution of health workers
- Health worker migration and universal health coverage
- Gender health workforce mainstreaming, availability, accessibility, acceptability, quality control and performance enhancement approaches
- Optimsing the scope of practice of different cadres of health workers
- Strengthening human resources through information, coordination and accountability mechanisms
- Strengthening health workers capacities through digital health
Governance is central to improving health sector performance and achieving UHC. The following areas will be covered during the conference
- Promoting regional and global mechanisms for collective action and partnership
- Fostering citizens’ platforms and people’s voice mechanisms
- Promoting freedom of information and expanded use of quality data
- Legal frameworks supporting access to quality health services
- Developing policy dialogue platforms for multi-sectoral action
- Strengthening research and development, including technology transfer mechanisms