WHO is Partnering With Countries to Accelerate Progress Towards Universal Health Coverage

what countries have universal health care

Health is a fundamental human right and everyone deserves access to essential services to live a long and healthy life without incurring unaffordable out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Unfortunately, more than half of the global population lacks full coverage with essential health services.

Global leaders have recognized universal health coverage (UHC) as a critical investment to combat extreme poverty, promote shared prosperity, and empower people. UHC reshapes how healthcare is funded and delivered for greater accessibility, equity, and effectiveness.

WHO is working closely with countries to help accelerate progress toward universal health coverage as agreed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achieve this will require strong, resilient health systems anchored in local communities; primary health care provides an efficient foundation that provides essential access for interventions beyond primary care alone.

Comprehensive care provides a holistic solution, covering promotion and prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. A strong health workforce must be empowered with training to deliver high-quality services tailored to individual patients as well as communities.

A strong health system ensures that individuals can make informed choices regarding their own health and wellbeing, offering a resilience dividend by mitigating shocks to lives and livelihoods during times of distress and promoting economic productivity and community cohesion in times of peace.

Health systems around the world employ various models for financing and providing healthcare, from fully universal coverage to hybrid systems with elements from both public and private providers. But regardless of its design, all models must take into account three key features.

1. Universality: Everyone should have access to high-quality health services without incurring additional out-of-pocket costs.

2. Equity: All individuals should receive equitable healthcare services regardless of wealth or location.

3. Finances: Each member should enjoy equal access to health system financing, without anyone being left behind.

Reaching universal health coverage (UHC) is a complex, interlinked process that requires governments to build political consensus and take bold steps. While most countries have reached their UHC targets, progress remains uneven: inequalities persist and 17% of households in low-income countries face financial hardship due to out-of-pocket health spending.

Investment in UHC represents one of the greatest opportunities to reduce poverty and build a more prosperous future. UHC investment is also one of the most powerful means of meeting Sustainable Development Goals; UHC can end extreme poverty, promote shared prosperity and transform lives for millions worldwide. As global citizens we can learn from those who have made great strides forward as well as those who may be making less progress – it is critical that we act now!