Monday, 14 February 2011

The World Health Report : Health systems financing: the path to universal coverage (WHO)

This insightful World Health Organisation report addresses the challenges faced by both low and high-income countries on the issue of financing good quality and affordable health care.

As the title of the report suggests, the focus is on reforming the way health is financed on a universal scale and identifies three main barriers to achieving universal coverage of equitable health care.

The first barrier relates to availability of health resources, including the use of new technologies for informing health initiatives, treatments and programs, and the provision of care across all areas of a country.

The second barrier concerns the out-of-pocket costs associated with accessing health care services. The immediate and direct cost to an individual may prevent them from seeking care in the first place, or cause financial hardship to those who do, particularly when a chronic condition is present requiring ongoing costs for consultations, medicines and transport.

The third barrier highlights the inefficient use of resources, which has resulted in 20-40% of health spending being wasted. Examples of this include using expensive drugs in place of cheaper, equally sufficient ones and the over-prescribing of certain medicines.

The report highlights three key ways in which countries can help raise more money for health, recognising the need for solidarity between governments and populations:

* Increase the efficiency of revenue collection - review and improve the way taxes are collected to increase the revenue spent on health.

* Reprioritise government budgets - ensure agreed health allocations are accurately and swiftly apportioned.
* Innovative financing - considering things like raising taxes on alcohol to lower consumption and generate revenue for health; introducing levies on currency transactions and bonds.

It also suggests positive, practical examples of how all countries should be tackling these inequities as well as highlighting those that are already achieving improved health outcomes for their populations.

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