Why palliative care must be included in Universal Health Coverage

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Education, Featured, and Must Read.

Today, 12 December, is Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day. First celebrated in 2014, it marks the anniversary of the first unanimous United Nations resolution calling for all nations to provide affordable, quality health care for all their citizens. 

The day raises awareness of the human right to health. Universal Health Coverage has been included in the new Sustainable Development Goals for 2015- 2030.

What is Universal Health Coverage?

The Universal Health Coverage Day website describes UHC as follows:

UHC ensures all people, everywhere, can access the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It is a fundamentally political goal rooted in the human right to health. It is also one of the smartest investments any country can make.

Key principles of UHC include:

  • Health is a human right, not a privilege
  • No one should go bankrupt when they get sick
  • Good health transforms societies
  • UHC is possible
  • Health for ALL is critical to the future we want by 2030

What is the role of palliative care in UHC?

The Lancet Commission on Palliative Care and Pain Relief has suggested a comprehensive package of care to be included within UHC packages which is cost-effective and affordable.

It is estimated that 61.5 million people experience serious health related suffering worldwide. Palliative care is beneficial to a broad range of people living with communicable and non-communicable conditions, from children to older persons, as well as their family members. An essential package should be available to all for the following reasons:

  1. Palliative care alleviates suffering and improves the quality of life of adults and children with life-limiting communicable and non communicable conditions and illnesses.
  2. Palliative care is cost effective and affordable, relieving the need for unnecessary hospitalisations and ineffective medical interventions.
  3. Adults and children with palliative care needs often have complex health conditions. Palliative care supports those with some of the highest health needs, and those who are particularly vulnerable to catastrophic expenditure on health.

Download the Palliative Care and UHC Fact Sheet

The Palliative Care and Universal Health Coverage Fact Sheet, published in June 2018, was developed by the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA), the International Association of Hospice and palliative Care (IAHPC) and ICPCN. The fact sheet information is based on the findings of the Lancet Commission Report on Palliative Care and Pain relief (2017).

This two-page document provides key facts, statistics and recommendations to help in national and international level advocacy.

A call to action – what can individuals do to raise awareness of the issue?

  • Inform yourself: Learn more about UHC.  Identify a problem within your family , network or community and explore what resources are available to help you advance health for all.
  • Share your story: Communicate your health care experiences, needs and opinions. Share your story on social media or local media to inspire others and help spark a larger movement.
  • Demand action: Hold your local and national leaders accountable for taking clear steps toward health for all.

Click on this link to hear Lucy Watts, an outspoken ambassador for the provision of palliative care as part of  UHC  speaking out and sharing her story on this Universal Health Coverage Day.