More action needed to achieve universal health coverage in Asia and the Pacific by global deadline

In its first report to measure countries’ progress towards universal health coverage and health-related targets in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Health Organization (WHO) has found that countries in the Western Pacific Region are on track for some targets, but overall progress is too slow to hit global targets by 2030.

Monitoring Universal Health Coverage and Health in the Sustainable Development Goals: Baseline Report for the Western Pacific Region 2017 was unveiled at the Universal Health Coverage Forum in Tokyo, hosted by the Government of Japan, WHO and the World Bank and attended by heads of state, chiefs of agencies and the United Nations Secretary-General.

“If we’re going to meet our goal of ensuring all people have access to quality health services where and when they need them, and without suffering financial hardship, we need to know where we’re doing well, but also where the big gaps are,” said Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “This Baseline Report brings together the information we need to identify priorities for the next 14 years.”

The report highlights achievements and challenges in the movement for universal health coverage in the Region, which is home to nearly 1.9 billion people.

Progress in some areas

The WHO Western Pacific Region has already met the 2030 SDG target for reducing maternal and child mortality. In addition, early deaths attributable to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer in the Region are currently below the global rate, as are regional rates for infectious diseases, such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.

More action needed

The Baseline Report confirms that where health service coverage is high, people’s life expectancy is longer. It also found widespread inequity, however, for example in access to health services between rural and urban households, and continuing disparities in health outcomes between rich and poor.

Disparities in terms of risk factors and inequities in access to health services and protection from catastrophic health-care costs may result in people being left behind from even basic health services such as immunization. More data are needed to better understand inequities in the Region.

Key challenges

All countries will face important challenges to reach the SDG targets for NCDs. Of the 27 countries studied in the Region, eight have particularly significant challenges with NCDs: Fiji, Kiribati, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Solomon Islands. People aged between the ages of 30 and 70 years in those countries when compared to the Region as a whole, have a 50% higher probability of dying early from NCDs.

While the regional averages for infectious diseases are low, Cambodia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines continue to have a high incidence of tuberculosis.

Better data help countries prioritize

Findings such as these help WHO and countries prioritize future work to address the biggest challenges, but more data are needed. The report presents analyses, techniques and tools that can help countries develop the more sophisticated data that are needed to inform public health policy-making.

Better health data lead to insights that can guide countries in addressing these issues. The new regional Baseline Report also recommends that countries develop or finalize their own country-specific SDG and UHC monitoring framework that targets their specific priorities.

The release of the Baseline Report coincides with Universal Health Coverage Day on 12 December, which marks the anniversary of the 2012 adoption of the UN resolution urging all countries to accelerate progress towards providing all people with access to affordable, quality health services.

Universal health coverage is Goal 3 of the SDGs, which were adopted by world leaders in 2015 to guide sustainable development up to 2030.

For further information, contact:

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
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