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Universal health coverage (UHC) is defined as ensuring that all people have access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation) of sufficient quality to be effective while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user the financial hardship. Universal health coverage has therefore become a major goal for health reform in many countries and a priority objective of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Good health is essential to sustained economic and social development and poverty reduction. Access to needed health services is crucial for maintaining and improving health. At the same time, people need to be protected from being pushed into poverty because of the cost of health care.

Universal health coverage (UHC) emphasizes three related objectives:

Equity in access to health services – everyone who needs services should get them, not only those who can pay for them;

The quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving services; and

People should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put people at risk of financial harm.

Universal health coverage is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948 declaring health a fundamental human right and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma Ata declaration in 1978. UHC cuts across all of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and brings hope of better health and protection for the world’s poorest. UHC also allows countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital. Health is a foundational investment in human capital and in economic growth. Without good health, children are unable to go to school and adults are unable to go to work.

A recent review of health-system financing for UHC in Nigeria shows high out-of-pocket expenses for health care, a very low budget for health at all levels of government, and poor health insurance penetration. Nigeria has shown commitment to achieving universal health coverage (UHC), but progress has been slow. The 2014 Presidential Summit Declaration affirms that UHC is key to ensuring equitable access to high-quality, affordable health care for all Nigerians.

There must be a holistic approach towards the implementation of Universal health Coverage in Nigeria and worldwide to ensure that all people have access to needed quality health services without exposing them to financial hardship.

Bullum Nkeki.

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