The World Health Organisation defines universal health coverage (UHC) as a healthcare system that ensures all people can use quality services that improve their health without putting them at risk of financial harm.
Countries cannot expect to achieve that without putting in place mechanisms that protect communities from disease and safeguard them from loss of income caused by epidemics such as HIV, TB and Ebola. Research and innovation for the development, deployment and affordability of critical medical treatments are indispensable in the quest for UHC.
UHC conversations are largely centred around service delivery, access to drugs, diagnostics and provision of social health insurance. But under-researched or ‘neglected diseases’ continue to pose a disease burden and the constant presence of global health threats from disease outbreaks that transcend borders (such as Ebola, swine flu and avian influenza) remain.
The April 8-15 WHO weekly bulletin on outbreaks and other emergencies had an alert on an outbreak of the deadly dengue fever in Mombasa County.
According to WHO, dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics with no vaccine or specific treatment. Exposure to such a disease puts affected communities beyond the universality of UHC.
(First published in the Daily Nation, 7 May 2019)