Thursday, December 11, 2014

ILO study: 40% of the world’s population without health coverage

The study, “Addressing the Global Health Crisis: Universal Health Protection Policies,” further shows that across 44 countries, 80 percent of the population are without any health protection These countries include Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 
Similar major gaps also exist in Asia. In India alone, the study noted, more than 80 percent of people lack health protection coverage. Other countries showing substantial coverage gaps include Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Honduras, and Nepal. 

The report was issued to coincide with the Universal Health Coverage Day, which is observed on 12 December.
“Universal health protection is key to fighting poverty, reducing inequity and nurturing economic growth. Sustainable development with decent jobs for all requires investment in health protection – these linkages cannot be ignored in policy development,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder ahead of the universal day.
The ILO study points to high impoverishment due to private health spending as a barrier for accessing health care. In many countries, such as Sierra Leone, 75 pe cent of total health expenditure comes from private resources in the form of out-of-pocket payments, which has led to deep impoverishment.
The extent of impoverishing out-of-pocket payments in a country increases with the level of the population living below the poverty line. 
“Thus, it is the poorest with the highest needs who suffer the most from having to pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses,” explained Xenia Scheil-Adlung, Health Policy Coordinator at the ILO. 
Another major factor leading to the global health crisis concerns the shortage of health workers, who are often poorly paid. Globally, the ILO estimates that 10.3 million additional health workers are needed to close the current gaps and ensure the delivery of universal health care. In countries such as Haiti, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone, as many as 10,000 people have to rely on services provided by five or fewer health workers, whereas in a high-income country like Finland there are 269 health workers available for 10,000 people.
The study shows that 56 percent of the global population living in rural areas do not have health protection coverage, compared to 22 per cent of the urban population.
“For decades, public health systems were underfunded and could not properly develop in middle and low income countries. Quick fixes like small vertical programs – for example, immunization -- are insufficient. Countries need investments in universal health systems,” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department. 
The highest inequities and disparities in coverage between rural and urban areas were found in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. 
The study explains that overcoming the current global health crisis requires a policy shift towards universal health protection and points to ILO Recommendation 202 concerning national floors of social protection  as a useful tool for achieving that goal.
Investment in health systems leads to sustained economic growth, increased productivity and wellbeing for populations, a reason why countries like Benin, Gabon, China, the Philippines or the United States have expanded health coverage in recent years. In Thailand, the introduction of universal health protection has led to economic gains of as much as 1.2 times the original investment.

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