Free and Public

Introduction

Health care for all was a commitment made by world leaders in the 1970s. Over three decades later even the most basic qualified health care remains too expensive or beyond reach for millions of people. Why?

Free health care is a vital public service and key to transforming the lives of people living in poverty. Building strong public services for all, including health care, is hardly a new idea: it is the foundation upon which many of today’s richest countries have built healthy, more inclusive and more productive societies. Some developing countries have followed suit with impressive results.

But too many have not and today suffer as a result of under-resourced or uncommitted governments, as well as inappropriate policies, which have sometimes been promoted by rich country governments or international health agencies.

Global Health Check aims to crack open and challenge the limited debate about health financing and provision of services in poor countries. It seeks to stimulate challenging debate and confront the narrow menu of options for health care reform promoted by some donor agencies. It will explore topics such as the appropriateness of an expanding role for the private sector and market competition, proposals to reduce the role of the state to a health system ‘steward’ not a health system provider; splitting the roles of financing and provision of health care; and practices such as the continuing use of direct payments or co-payments. It will also explore topics such as the appropriateness of social health insurance approaches for low-income countries with high levels of poverty and informal employment.

Global Health Check will share the practical experiences of and lessons from countries that have introduced progressive health policies, especially the removal of user fees, for the benefit of other countries. By doing so the blog aims to demonstrate that positive change is possible and that, in line with the central message of the 2010 World Health Report, all countries, no matter what income, can make practical changes now to advance towards universal and equitable coverage.

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Global Health Check is edited by Anna Marriott, Health Policy Advisor for Oxfam GB, and welcomes contributions from different authors. If you would like to write an article for this site or if you have any queries please contact: amarriott@oxfam.org.uk.