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Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a state where citizens can access health care services without incurring financial hardship. This means that all people and communities have access to quality promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services that they need. The three pillars of UHC are equity in access, quality of service, and protection of financial risk. UHC is especially important now, with 123.6 million people globally being pushed below the $3.10 poverty line by out of pocket health care expenditure (Wagstaff et. al., 2017).
As part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, members have agreed to work towards UHC by 2030. This goal is a challenging one, with low and middle-income countries having to battle with larger populations, a smaller health workforce, fewer resources, and less available spending. These countries account for 83% of the world’s population (World Bank, 2013 data), however, they only have access to a quarter of the nurses and half the physicians that higher income countries do (World Bank, 2013 data for nurses and physicians). Health expenditure is also a problem, with low and middle-income countries spending only a fraction on health care compared to high-income countries. This is compounded by the significant cuts to foreign aid investments from higher income economies.
A reason for this disparity is lack of resources, which are rich in countries that have a large knowledge base or flourishing knowledge economies. A knowledge economy is one that is dependent on the quality, quantity, and accessibility of the information available, for its growth. Two things that a healthy knowledge economy needs are both higher education institutions and reasonable access to information.
Establishing higher education opportunities and access to knowledge for health workers in the Pacific is notably difficult. Access to professional development and education programs may be limited in hard to reach areas, which can discourage candidates looking to further their career training and education.
Much of the knowledge required to establish UHC already exists. Poor access to this knowledge what presents a major barrier to achieving Universal Health Coverage. POLHN aims to improve Pacific health care through e-learning. POLHN aims to improve the quality and standards of practice of health professionals by offering free, online and blended courses at polhn.org/courses. With this access to knowledge and continuing professional development for healthcare workers in the Pacific – the hope is UHC will be soon to follow.
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