closingthegapA group of leading global organisations headed by Save the Children have produced a joint report calling for inequalities in access to healthcare to be addressed after identifying that more than a billion people do not receive the healthcare they need each year.

The report, compiled by StC, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Rockefeller Foundation also suggests that a further 100 million are pushed into poverty by having to find cash to pay for health services.

In the foreward to the report, the group's chief executives jointly write: "Investing in equitable pathways towards UHC is the right thing to do from a moral and ethical perspective. But making the needs of poor and vulnerable groups the first priority will also accelerate progress towards global and national aggregate targets.

"Research commissioned for this report using the Lives Saved Tool (LiST) estimated that the elimination of within-country wealth inequities in coverage of essential maternal and child health interventions would prevent the deaths of 1.8 million children under-five and 100,000 mothers. This would reduce child mortality by one-fifth and maternal mortality by almost one-third. More equitable health financing produces better value for money.

"Another piece of research commissioned for this report revealed that, by increasing pooled funding as a share of national health expenditure by 10 percentage points, underfive mortality rates could fall by 15 deaths per 1,000 live births. This effect is amplified in countries where the health system is more equitable.

"More equitable health financing through risk pooling could enable 13 countries currently not on track to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 – a two-thirds reduction in the number of children dying by their fifth birthday – to achieve their target. This is a 76% increase in the number of countries reaching MDG 4 based on current projections."

The authors conclude that the poor must benefit first and not last from moves towards UHC and that this should be central to any new world development goals – which are due to be agreed in 2015.

Read the full report at www.savethechildren.org.uk/resources/online-library/universal-health-coverage-commitment-close-gap