Health expenses push millions into poverty — WHO, World Bank

By on June 14, 2015


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UNITED NATIONS — Health expenses push 6 percent of people in low and middle income countries into extreme poverty, showed a new report released here Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank.

Speaking at the report’s release, Tessa Tan Torres-Edejer, WHO coordinator of health systems financing, said that this equated to 69 million people who are tipped or further pushed into extreme poverty by health costs.

“Lack of access is particularly severe among those who are poor and disadvantaged,” Torres-Edejer said.

“Out of pocket expenditures are payments at the point where you access the service, where you’re at the facility and you have to pay up. They cause financial hardship,” Torres-Edejer said.

The Tracking Universal Health Coverage report measures access to universal health coverage, around the world as well as financial hardship caused by health care costs.

The report found that worldwide, 400 million people don’t have access to basic essential health services.

Tim Evans, senior director of Health, Nutrition & Population at the World Bank said that the report was a “wake-up call.”

“It shows that we are a long way from achieving universal health coverage,” he said. “We must expand access to health and protect the poorest from health expenses that are causing them severe financial hardship.”

The report noted that the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, representing around half of the global population, “are all engaged in health system reforms designed to extend, deepen, or otherwise improve health service coverage for their populations.”

These countries are also “simultaneously working on ways to increase financial protection for those availing themselves of health services,” the report said.

“Universal health coverage means that all people receive the quality, essential health services they need, without being exposed to financial hardship,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the report said more people have access to essential health services today than at any other time in history, and “for some health services, global population coverage already surpasses 80 percent, and in the past decade there is some evidence that the proportion of people hit by health service-related catastrophic spending and impoverishment has dropped somewhat.”

“However, there is still a long way to go on the road to UHC (universal health coverage) both in terms of health service and financial protection coverage,” the report said.

The report looked at global access to essential health services — including family planning, antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, child immunization, antiretroviral therapy, tuberculosis treatment, and access to clean water and sanitation — in 2013, and found that at least 400 million people lacked access to at least one of these services.