Health is not a luxury item that should leave people open to market forces or to the affordability of care. The WHO constitution of 1948 declared health as a fundamental human right. This and the ‘Health for All’ agenda set by the Alma-Ata declaration in 1978 form the basis for the call for Universal Health Coverage. The goal of universal health coverage is to ensure that all people obtain the health services they require without suffering financial hardship when paying for them. This requires in place, a strong, efficient, well-run health service, and an efficient system for financing health services. Also essential are access to essential medicines & technologies and a sufficient capacity of well-trained, motivated health workers.
It is obvious in Nigeria that a great number of citizens die from lack of access to healthcare and the inability to afford the costs of healthcare even where these services are available. It is for these reasons that the outcome of the Presidential Summit on Universal Healthcare in March 2014 was welcome.
Whither to Nigeria with the Universal Health Coverage
One year on, not much can be said of attaining the set target of achieving 30% coverage by 2015. Health is wealth - Universal Health Coverage has a direct impact on the nation’s health. The evidence for introducing UHC comes from studies that have shown substantial reduction in deaths years after the introduction of mandatory universal health care coverage. The death rate of the uninsured is 25 percent higher than for otherwise similar people who have health insurance. People died because they lacked health insurance that would have enabled them access to care.
Universal coverage is the hallmark of a government’s commitment to improve the health and wellbeing of all its citizens. The Federal, State and Local governments have to inject new ways of thinking to ensure that each Nigerian has, to say the least, the basic universal health insurance. Nigeria’s new government needs to give the health sector the urgent attention it requires. The success of the Universal Health Coverage does not depend on rhetoric but on a well thought through execution.
Our call is for the governments of Nigeria to take down from the shelves policies and strategies that have been drawn up and refocus on the effective execution of the UHC policies. Every Nigerian Life is Priceless.