Universal Health Coverage


    Universal health coverage means that all people have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. It includes the full range of essential health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

    Currently, at least half of the people in the world do not receive the health services they need. About 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year because of out-of-pocket spending on health. This must change.

    To make health for all a reality, we need: individuals and communities who have access to high quality health services so that they take care of their own health and the health of their families; skilled health workers providing quality, people-centred care; and policy-makers committed to investing in universal health coverage.

    Universal health coverage should be based on strong, people-centred primary health care. Good health systems are rooted in the communities they serve. They focus not only on preventing and treating disease and illness, but also on helping to improve well-being and quality of life.

    WHO's role

    WHO identifies achieving universal coverage as a strategic priority, with the goal of 1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage by 2023.

    In countries with fragile health systems, we focus on technical assistance to build national institutions and service delivery to fill critical gaps in emergencies. In more robust health system settings, we drive public health impact towards health coverage for all through policy dialogue for the systems of the future and strategic support to improve performance.

    This work is supported by normative guidance and agreements; data, research and innovation; and leadership in the realms of diplomacy, advocacy, gender equality, health equity and human rights, multisectoral action, and finance.

    UHC does not mean free access to every possible health service for every person. Every country has a different path to achieving UHC and deciding what to cover based on the needs of their people and the resources at hand. It does, however, emphasize the importance of access to health services and information as a basic human right.

    2030 Agenda for SDGs

    WHO’s work is aligned with SDG target 3.8, which focuses on achieving universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.

    Approximately half the world’s population lacks access to such essential health services. Therefore, to achieve SDG target 3.8 of Universal Health Coverage for all by 2030, at least 1 billion more people will need to have access to essential health services in each five-year period between 2015 and 2030.

    The essence of UHC is universal access to a strong and resilient people-centred health system with primary care as its foundation. Community-based services, health promotion and disease prevention are key components as well as immunization, which constitutes a strong platform for primary care upon which UHC needs to be built. 

    Half of

    world's population

    do not have access to the health care they need.

    Over 930 million


    spend at least 10% of their household income on health care.

    100 million


    are driven into poverty each year through out-of-pocket health spending.

    High-Level Meeting on UHC

    On 23 September 2019 a high-level meeting on universal health coverage will be held at the United Nations General Assembly. The meeting, ‘Universal Health Coverage: Moving Together to Build a Healthier World’, will bring together heads of state, political and health leaders, policy-makers, and universal health coverage champions to advocate for health for all.

    © WHO

    Universal Health Coverage Partnership

    The UHC Partnership supports policy dialogue, with a view to promoting universal health coverage in 115 partner countries.


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