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5 reasons why health for all is within our reach…

No matter where they live or who their parents are, every child should have access to life-saving healthcare. Sound like a pipe dream? Here are five reasons why universal health coverage could become a reality.

1. Experts and ordinary people everywhere agree…

Thousands of people gather on the Millennium Bridge in London, calling on governments to implement the new Global Goals.

From the UN to the Australian public, universal health coverage – or UHC – is getting more and more support.

UHC has been made a target in the new Global Goals and Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, believes it’s crucial in the fight against poverty, saying that: “Universal health coverage is one of the most powerful social equalisers.”

Many economic experts agree – 267 economists from 44 countries publicly stated that universal health coverage reduces poverty and fuels economic growth.

The public has long believed in the power of universal healthcare too. The UK public’s affection for the NHS remains undimmed almost 70 years after it was set up, and in Australia, because of public pressure, the government has dropped plans to introduce user fees – another ringing endorsement for free healthcare.

2. More than 100 countries are proving it works…

Baby at Mucaca health centre, Burera northern Rwanda.

From Argentina to Zimbabwe, more countries than ever before are embracing the idea of health for all. More than 100 countries, home to three-quarters of the world’s population, have taken steps to deliver UHC.

In Iran, for example, more than 5 million people have already signed up to their health programme. Reductions in fuel subsidies are being used to pay for it. Rwanda’s national health insurance system, meanwhile, now covers more than 98% of the population, so the number of ordinary people having to pay for care has now come down dramatically. These are just two of the countries adopting UHC – testing it out, proving it works. There is no reason why every country in the world can’t do the same.

3. Ebola showed the dangers of poor health coverage

Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre, Sierra Leone.

The Ebola outbreak this year taught us an important lesson. It showed what can happen when you don’t have a decent health system – and then demonstrated what’s possible when you belatedly deliver it.

Save the Children was part of the international effort to restore functioning health systems across West Africa, helping to bring Ebola under control. When the need is great and the political will is there, national health services can rise to the challenge.

4. We can afford it…

UHC, healthcare, save the children
Ansu, 3 months old, and his mother Emily at the Save the Children supported clinic in Liberia.

Still not convinced it can be done? Well, consider this. Universal health coverage – healthcare that will save millions of children’s lives – would cost a third of what the world spends on fizzy drinks.

The world can afford to do this. In fact…

5. We can’t afford NOT to do it

UHC day healtchare save the children
A nurse feeds a newborn child at the Nimule Hospital in Nimule, South Sudan.

A lack of universal health coverage:

Costs lives: Every year, 5.9 million children die before their fifth birthday – most because they don’t get basic healthcare. Around 400 million people can’t get critical life-saving health services – with fatal consequences for many.

Makes people poorer: One person in six in low- and middle-income countries is pushed – or pushed further – into poverty by having to spend money out of their own pocket on healthcare. No one should go bankrupt when they get sick.

Means we miss out on economic growth: A healthier population is more productive – every dollar spent on health returns up to ten times the economic benefit.

So there it is – universal health coverage doesn’t just save lives. It keeps people out of poverty and drives growth. There is no excuse for not making sure everyone, everywhere can get the healthcare they need.

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