Governments push for Universal Health Coverage as COVID-19 continues to devastate communities and economies

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Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is an ambitious goal that the world can’t afford to miss. The lessons that countries are currently learning from the COVID-19 pandemic all underscore that investing in health for all is not optional. Stable, equitable, prosperous and peaceful societies and economies are only possible when no one is left behind. This crisis is an opportunity to seize the moment to make changes that benefit both UHC and health security.

The UHC Partnership, one of WHO’s largest initiatives for international cooperation for UHC, supports countries to strengthen the foundations of their health systems to boost their COVID-19 response, enhance preparedness for impending health emergencies, and ensure that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, can access the essential health services they need without experiencing financial hardship.

Countries are demonstrating that effective primary health care and a strong health workforce are among the most powerful ways to bring health services closer to communities, protect everyone from all health threats and inch closer to UHC. Some of these country examples are documented in the UHC Partnership’s special series of stories from the field on the COVID-19 response.

Colombia responds to COVID-19 with an intercultural health model

COVID-19 has spread across Colombia but there is still an opportunity to prevent widespread transmission in areas like the Alta Guajira desert, a remote region inhabited by the some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. Determined to protect them from the pandemic, the Government is enhancing access to primary health care that respects indigenous culture and traditions.

A nurse attends to a young patient at the ESE Hospital de Nazareth in Alta Guajira, Colombia. ©PAHO/WHO/Karen González Abril 

Community health workers in Dominica lead the fight against COVID-19

Community health workers are at the heart of the COVID-19 response in Dominica’s Roseau Health District. Bringing health care closer to the community through primary health care and training the health workforce in people-centred care has so far proven to be the best protection against the pandemic. 

PAHO team deployed to Dominica, ©Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Investment, Dominica

How Ethiopia prepared its health workforce for the COVID-19 response

Health workers are vital to the global response to COVID-19. With resources stretched to the limit and health systems under immense pressure, countries need more health workers on the ground to tackle the pandemic while continuing to provide other essential health services. Ethiopia has been preparing its health workforce to respond to COVID-19, build a resilient health system and move a step closer towards health for all.

WHO representative Dr Boureima Sambo visiting the Benishangul regional COVID-19 lab in Assosa with the country office COVID-19 Incident Management Team. ©WHO/Loza Tesfaye 

Georgia’s experience during COVID-19 will inform its future primary health care approaches

As Georgia tackles a surge in COVID-19, it is taking a forward-looking approach, setting a strong foundation for primary health care that both supports the pandemic response and makes health services more accessible to communities. 

Doctors, residents and medical students call COVID-19 patients to monitor and assess their status remotely from an online COVID-19 clinic housed in the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs. ©WHO/Vladimir Valishvili

From governance to community surveillance: Assam’s 360 degree COVID-19 response

The state of Assam in northeastern India is showing how primary health care not only makes health services accessible to communities: it is also an effective way to prepare for and tackle health emergencies. At the heart of Assam’s response to COVID-19 are community health workers, locally known as COVID-19 warriors. They are leading surveillance efforts, enabling early detection, isolation and treatment and keeping the virus from spreading further.

COVID-19 warriors in Assam. ©State IEC Cell, National Health Mission, Assam

Islamic Republic of Iran tackles COVID-19 by enhancing primary health care

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the Islamic Republic of Iran, effective primary health care is crucial in accelerating the national response. It makes health literacy and health services more accessible to households, supporting prevention, case detection and treatment right where communities need them. 

A pharmacy at Fasham Urban Comprehensive Health Centre, Shemiranat District Tehran. ©WHO/Islamic Republic of Iran

A confident health workforce strengthens Lao PDR’s health system and COVID-19 response

Lao PDR is boosting the capacities of the people who protect the nation’s health. A stronger health workforce is key to the country’s response to COVID-19 and serves as the foundation of a resilient health system and UHC.

The Children’s Hospital in Lao PDR provides a full range of services from primary care / family doctor consultations on minor illnesses, to pediatric surgery and intensive care. It also offers child-friendly dental services. ©WHO/Ben Duncan

Health for all is Somalia’s answer to COVID-19 and future threats to health

Somalia’s experience in addressing COVID-19 illustrates how investing in universal health coverage sets a strong foundation for heath emergency preparedness and response. The Government is working to ensure that people can access quality health care without experiencing financial hardship. 

©WHO/Somalia

The UHC Partnership expands WHO’s assistance and technical expertise to 115 countries, through funding from the European Union, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Irish Aid, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Government of Japan, the United Kingdom – Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and Belgium. The Partnership supports governments in strengthening health systems to accelerate progress towards UHC. Its work includes a special focus on health security and noncommunicable diseases.

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