Universal Health Coverage

Universal health coverage (UHC) is a simple concept, yet the coverage gap in care for common mental health conditions can be as high as 90% in some low income

Universal health coverage (UHC) is a simple concept: everyone everywhere should be able to access the highest attainable standards of health without suffering financial hardship. It is rooted in the WHO constitution of 1948 and has been reaffirmed many times by governments. Yet today the coverage gap in care for common mental health conditions can be as high as 90% in some low income countries.

With governments taking the initiative to talk about how post-Covid health systems will look, conversations about the role of mental health are on the rise. We are working to build an understanding of how to integrate and expand access to decent mental healthcare into the world’s existing health infrastructure; and to reap the health and economic benefits of doing so.

The Challenge

There is a huge gap in the global coverage of care for mental health conditions, and the care that is available is disproportionately focused on tertiary or secondary rather than primary (PHC) and community-based care.

As things stand, we are failing to uphold people’s right to the highest attainable standard of health, as initially set out in the WHO constitution. Median global government spending on mental health as a percentage of government health expenditure is only 2.1%. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, only a small fraction of this expenditure goes to those most vulnerable such as children, adolescents and caregivers.

The cost of this failure, especially with conditions such as depression and anxiety, in economic terms are estimated at US$387 billion.

Though there are encouraging signs internationally, on both policy and funding, closing those gaps in coverage will require more political will from governments and international donors.

Get Involved

The Global Mental Health Action Network (GMHAN) is the world’s leading advocacy network for better global mental health. If you would like to get involved in GMHAN’s work on universal health coverage, register to become a member of the network today.

Our Work So Far

We have conducted novel research that we released in a report exploring how UHC could be achieved for mental health, primarily focusing on the integration of mental health services into existing health systems. By showing both the scale of gap in coverage, particularly in lower-middle and lower income countries, alongside the exponential benefits in closing the gap, the report built the case for support and a broad advocacy framework for future action.

Our Impact

Since the release of our reports and with help from working group members in the Global Mental Health Action Network working group, UHC is now being seriously explored at the highest levels of national and international government. UHC working group members are contributing to the State of UHC Commitment Review process in Ghana, Liberia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. This is alongside members’ contributions to the G20. The research and work we have contributed is helping build the intellectual and political case for meaningful action in the medium and long term.

Case Studies

Learn more from the case studies from Ghana, Pakistan, and South Africa to see how UnitedGMH and our partners are advocating for change and engaging key stakeholders.

Case Study Pakistan

Case Study South Africa

Case Study Ghana

What’s Next

We are prioritising national level advocacy, on the ground links with various governments, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Download our UHC Reports & Briefings

This package of content includes our complete set of reports and briefings published between 2020-2022. Download them today.

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