Universal health coverage receives backing from economists


A global coalition of 267 economists representing 44 countries is calling on policymakers to prioritise universal health coverage (UHC) as an essential pillar of economic development.

Launched ahead of the United Nations meeting to enact the Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious agenda for the next 15 years that includes UHC among its targets, the Economists’ Declaration proclaims that ensuring everyone can obtain high quality essential health services without suffering financial hardship is right, smart and affordable.

‘UHC isn’t only the right thing to do – it’s also the economically smart thing to do,’ said Lawrence H. Summers, President Emeritus at Harvard University. ‘The data clearly shows that health is essential to eradicating extreme poverty and promoting economic growth. I launched this Declaration to urge world leaders to act on that evidence.’

The Declaration cites the considerable evidence supporting the signatories’ assertion that all countries have the opportunity to achieve UHC and should prioritise reforms and investments toward it. These include the right investments to increase availability of today’s health tools and discover, develop and deliver new interventions; the cost of health; driving economic growth; and building resilience against diseases such as Ebola.

‘With nearly half the world’s population now living in a country advancing toward universal health coverage, the case for UHC is strong and growing stronger. But there is still work to be done to ensure more equitable access to lifesaving services for even the poorest and most vulnerable people,’ said Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. ‘The Rockefeller Foundation convened this Declaration by the world’s leading economists to demonstrate the financial benefits and feasibility of UHC. With their resounding support, it is now time to invest the resources needed to make health for all a reality.’

‘We are at a juncture of history where the world can afford basic health coverage for all,’ said Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. ‘Given economic growth, donor country commitments and new mechanisms to raise local funds, countries, no matter at what stage of development, can provide universal health coverage.’

More than 100 countries across the development spectrum have begun working towards UHC, increasingly demonstrating its feasibility. The Economists’ Declaration calls for increased domestic funding, donor country commitments, and political leadership to advance pro-poor reforms toward UHC.

The full text of the Economists’ Declaration and complete list of signatories are published in the The Lancet and at healthforall.org/economists-declaration. The Declaration builds on the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health, which concluded in their 2013 report, Global Health 2035, that if the right health investments are made today, developing countries will see dramatic health and economic gains within a generation.


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