The First National Symposium on Universal Health Coverage has closed with a resounding call for policy reforms, prioritization, use of evidence and political commitment for effective and successful implementation of Universal Health Coverage.
Speaking at the closing ceremony at Silver Springs Hotel where the three-day event has been going on, the WHO Country Representative Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu noted that without the necessary changes in policy and other institutional arrangements, life will continue business as usual. “Before the right reforms and policies are done we cannot do much with universal health coverage; we may not achieve that added value. We have to restructure and achieve the baseline; where we are starting from. We should not assume we are starting from zero, take recognition of what exists. We need leadership, governance and committed political will”, he said.
Dr. Wondimagegnehu further noted that universal health coverage conversations that do not involve the policymakers will lead to no action taken. “What is the benefit of talking to each other if the critical policy makers are not there? At WHO we are working to ensure that health becomes a political agenda. “We need to turn around the talk so that we inspire the politician to understand the agenda”.
On resilient health systems, he said the vulnerability of health systems is higher in African countries due to low investments in health systems. This matter, he said, is and should be part of the universal health coverage discussion.
He thanked Makerere University for ensuring that academic critical thinking is at the disposal of stakeholders to try and fill the information gaps on universal health coverage.
Dr. Alemu at the closing of the symposium
In his closing remarks, Mr. Tom Aliti, Assistant Commissioner for Planning, who represented the Director General of Health Services Ministry of Health, said the Ministry has already started planning for universal health coverage as indicated in the Health Sector Development Plan for the next five years. “We have finalized the Health Sector Development Plan for the next five years and we have mapped out key interventions to help us achieve universal health coverage. Reduction of financial risk, ensure access to quality basic services and partnerships. Emphasis is on high impact interventions like immunization, improved health worker performance, results-based financing. There is no particular road that can move us towards universal health coverage but the Health Sector Development Plan is a vehicle to use”, Mr. Aliti said.
He however, pointed out the need to fix certain factors that may hinder effective implementation of universal health coverage, if left in their current state. He said this can be done by working on a roadmap that will emphasise improvement in areas like health financing, human resources and infrastructure.
Mr. Aliti giving his closing remarks
He said although the Ministry of Health is challenged with numerous governance and leadership gaps, there is great desire to sustain and institutionalizing the universal health coverage agenda.
Mr. Aliti said the symposium is a step towards achieving the desired outcome of people accessing quality services and in an equitable way. He therefore expressed hope that the SPEED initiative will be available to support the Ministry of Health in this task.
He thanked the EU for the support to the health sector for many years which has led to good impact in some thematic areas.
Professor Christopher Garimoi Orach, the Ag Dean of Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), noted that consistent political will is very key to the realization of universal health coverage. He called upon partners and stakeholders to do whatever is within their means to carry the UHC agenda forward. He particularly emphasised the need to have on board district health managers who are critical allies in the UHC agenda.
The SPEED Team Leader, Associate Professor Freddie Ssengooba reminded the symposium delegates that right now UHC is still at concept level and many people are still trying to understand what it is and what it takes to attain it. This, he said, is the opportune time for expanding the discussion to bring all schools of thought to the table, identify priorities and implement the most cost-effective interventions or packages of services.
Associate Professor Freddie Ssengooba