WHO staff in Laos celebrates Universal Health Coverage Day

The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day falls on 12 December each year to raise awareness of what it is and its scope. There are two themes this year, “Health for all” and “Rise for our rights”, as health is a fundamental human right.

Health for all envisions securing the health and well-being of people around the world, allowing them to lead socially and economically productive lives. The right to health for all people means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardships.

Globally, we have a long way to go until everyone—no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have will be able to get the quality health care services they need and deserve.

Politicians and policy makers have improved access to health services, essential medicines, providing financial risk protection and ensuring equity in leaving no one behind.

WHO celebration in the country office target staff, to convert them as advocates for UHC. Through this celebration, staff will have a better understanding of UHC, and join advocates around the world to demand action and results for UHC.

UHC goes beyond having a well-trained health workforce, and access to treatment and medicines that are safe. It is beyond primary health care, or ensuring medical services that is of acceptable quality. It is not just about people-centred care that is available to everyone, every time they need it and it has to be affordable. It covers all of these areas and more, including a reliable health information system that provides data which will allow government to make evidence-based decisions, to strengthen governance and accountability.

A well-functioning health system in place will be able to manage health risks that threaten health security. Lao has used a multi-sectoral approach to work with partners in non-health sectors to ensure global and regional security. It will continue to incorporate health in planning to address the social determinants of health by improving the environment, housing, water, sanitation and hygiene, transportation, education, jobs, nutrition and food security related to health inequalities.

The country has made good progress towards UHC through the health sector reforms, by improving access in term of service delivery. We see more mothers and children using health services as they remove the financial barriers by providing free services for pregnant women and children below the age of five.

In health financing, Laos have moved to a more equitable and progressive tax-based financing for health. They will continue to develop their human resources for health to build a fit-for-purpose workforce. It has also adopted a “One country, One monitoring” framework to collect data on health to report progress to the government.

It has now reached an important phase of national development since Laos has set its sights on graduation from the Least Developed Countries status by 2020 while they remain committed to achieve UHC by 2025 and SDGs by 2030.

They have entered an accelerated transition phase and have begun the process of phasing out from Gavi support, which is among the earliest ones witnessed in the country. This will help generate lessons for similar transitions that may affect other programmes funded by other donors or development partners including the Global Fund. More domestic funding will be committed to ensure a smooth transition to reach the UHC/SDG targets.

Through a series of social media, lightning talk and marketplace activities, staff have fun learning about UHC and know how their work are interrelated in the office. Breaking down SILO may be a first step to working together on UHC. UHC is not only for the health system development programme to implement but it needs the support and inputs from all programmes.

Dr Reiko Tsuyuoka (Officer in charge) with Viengthong Manivone (organizing committee) for UHC celebration
From left, Sengphet, Douangkeo and Monica for UHC Day Facebook Most Likes contest