WHO urges increased investments in health for achieving universal health coverage

News release

The World Health Organization (WHO) today urged Member States in the Western Pacific Region to develop strategies to increase and use more efficiently their investments in health as a means to achieve universal health coverage in the Region.

Addressing the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said that although most countries in the Region are experiencing steady economic growth, government spending on health remains low compared to other regions.

"When the poor fall sick, the cost of treatment, if they can afford it at all, often tips them further into hardship," Dr Shin said. "When that happens, they are even more susceptible to ill-health, resulting in greater poverty."

At a special side event organized by the Government of Viet Nam, Member States, including China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam, shared their experiences of progressing towards universal health coverage. The consensus opinion of the participants was that progressing towards universal health coverage requires high-level government commitment and a multisectoral response. Health ministries alone cannot achieve universal health coverage. Government investment in health is fundamental, especially to ensure that disadvantaged persons gain access to health services.

While health financing is critical, making good-quality services available and accessible is the cornerstone of universal health, Dr Shin said at the side event.

"Covering everyone requires a well-functioning health system with sufficient funding, good infrastructure, well-trained and motivated health workers, well-developed health information systems, integrated service delivery, access to essential medicine and appropriate technologies, and strong governance and management."

Achieving universal health coverage is at the core of WHO’s work in the Western Pacific and is the focus of Health Financing Strategy for the Asia Pacific Region (2010–2015), which was endorsed by the Regional Committee in 2009. This was followed by publication of the 2010 World Health Report, Health System Financing: the path to universal coverage.

"Great progress has been achieved in six priority countries in the Region: Cambodia, China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mongolia, the Philippines and Viet Nam, with improved access to basic services and financial protection," Dr Shin said.

He urged the 37 countries and areas of the WHO Western Pacific Region to increase government investment in health to reduce out-of-pocket payments and to improve efficiency.

“Every country — no matter how rich or poor — can do something now to improve access to good quality services, to improve financial protection and to improve efficiency.”

For more information or request to interview, please contact:

Ms Marilu Lingad
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1272643638
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 891 4532;
E-mail: lingadm@wpro.who.int

Mr Timothy O'Leary
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1252093845
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 886 8738
E-mail: olearyt@wpro.who.int