This was an African-led conversation ahead of the upcoming UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in September 2019.
Options contributed throughout the conference, sharing lessons from our work across sub-Sahara Africa. We highlighted the important role innovations play in accelerating UHC, as experienced on the County Innovation Challenge Fund (CICF), implemented by Options in Kenya with UKAid funding. Kimani Karuga, Technical Fund Manager for CICF shared how, through the Fund, 19 innovations are solving diverse challenges that hinder mothers and their babies from accessing quality health services.
Amy Jackson, Technical Officer for Options’ Evidence for Action (E4A)-MamaYe programme, shared how we have been un-packing the complex Global Financing Facility, and how we support civil society to ensure that this mechanism accelerates progress on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent health and nutrition. In a separate session, Meshack Acholla, Communications Officer for E4A-MamaYe, shared how and why we developed the #JazaShelves campaign, demonstrating that citizens voices are crucial in demanding quality family planning services-an important component that should not be left out when delivering a UHC package.
Our key take home messages
Political will to political action
Africa is at a critical moment in the pursuit of UHC and there is unprecedented political will across many countries. However, political will is just the first step. It is now time to translate the political will and commitment into action and real investment. Increased domestic health financing and efficiency in the use of those resources must be the cornerstone of UHC.
PHC for UHC
There is a strong consensus that primary health care is the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve UHC. Moreover, the care must be safe, of high quality and people-centered. Stakeholders were challenged to constantly pursue "the next better" by proactively identifying and bridging gaps in the standards of care available to clients and communities.
Collaboration across stakeholders
A wide variety of stakeholders will be required to achieve UHC. These stakeholders will need to collaborate: across the public and private sector, levels of the health system, and different types of expertise. It was encouraging to see this collaboration in action during the conference, all acknowledging the role they have to play in achieving UHC.
Accountability for all sectors
Civil Society Organizations have an important accountability role to play especially in the wake of the increasing role of the private sector. A new opportunity for civil society to look at private sector accountability; the increased momentum from the public sector provides new opportunities for civil society to push the momentum forward- ensuring innovative policies result in better health for more people.
UHC requires inclusion
UHC is about inclusion. From AHAIC, there was a strong voice from young people and women, reminding African leaders about the importance of providing quality sexual reproductive health and rights services to the most vulnerable and marginalized. Our work in Options recognises the importance of giving women choice and across the African continent we shall continue to champion for access and provision of quality healthcare for all because it is a basic human right.
As countries prepare for the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage we hope leaders can commit to increase their domestic funding to health, and spend it in a way that makes health services increasingly affordable and accessible to all. We look forward to countries creating enabling policy environments to encourage innovations in the health sector, and more opportunities for collaborations between governments and the private sector. Options commits to driving UHC forward, and we will continue to champion for quality healthcare everywhere.