By Crystal Lander, Director of Advocacy
When the global community renewed its commitment to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) we made a promise to secure health access for all and to prioritize hard-to-reach populations. Community health programs are well positioned to serve these populations and are critical for countries to achieve UHC. Yet, despite decades of innovation and improvement, vulnerable and remote communities are the last to witness progress and continue to bear the burden of preventable disease and death. Globally, 3.7 billion people, or half of the world, lack access to quality and affordable health services.
Communities at the Heart of UHC was pre-launched in September 2018 during the UN General Assembly as a global campaign to generate political will and commitment to ensure that integrated community health programs are government-owned, financially sustainable and rooted in quality are included in national UHC strategies. The prelaunch roundtable discussion was held at the Rockefeller Foundation and chaired by Dr. Naveen Rao, and guests included ministers of health from Ethiopia, Liberia, and Malawi along with global health advocates and leaders.
As the global community prepares to renew and refine commitments to UHC and primary health care (PHC), we have the opportunity to advocate for high-quality community health programs in realizing a PHC-driven UHC agenda. Decades of evidence indicates that community health programs can extend quality PHC services to rural and vulnerable populations since local community health workers can deliver essential health services where health facilities do not exist.
Why Communities at the Heart of UHC now?
At the 2019 High-Level Meeting on UHC (HLM-UHC), national governments will come together to report on progress and identify challenges in achieving UHC. Countries will report on a few UHC indicators that will shape commitments and strategies moving forward. Presently, none of the proposed indicators directly measure community health. We want that to change.
We have the opportunity to leverage a historic window of support and interest in community health to ensure that this momentum is translated into long-term action by including community health in national UHC strategies. At the Global Conference on Primary Health Care taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan, this week, we will.
What will the campaign do?
Acknowledging current national-level community health reporting frameworks that are intended to ensure community health programming is delivered at high quality and is financially sustainable, we suggest countries highlight their vision for community health that ties into the broader health system, a framework with indicators that measure access to life-saving care for women and children and a plan for equity to ensure that community health is affordable and accessible to all.
We call on advocates to encourage country leadership to make the commitment. We call on Member States to include community-based primary care indicators in reports at the 2019 UN High-Level Meeting on UHC.
For more details on the campaign’s key activities, please see our website.
Amref Health Africa, Aspen Management for Health, Financing Alliance for Health, the International Rescue Committee, Last Mile Health and Living Goods work together to elevate the visibility of community health within the UHC space. These groups are part of the larger movement of key organizations, including UHC2030, donors and country leaders, working to increase the dialogue on community health programs globally and advocate for funding through domestic resources and foreign assistance.