Blog: Exploring the link between universal health coverage and social protection

Blog: Exploring the link between universal health coverage and social protection
12 December 2023

By Sajanika Sivanu, Climate Centre, Toronto

The Climate Centre has today – Universal Health Coverage Day – published a comprehensive overview of universal health coverage as a pillar of social protection.

Universal Health Coverage as a Crucial Pillar for Social Protection highlights case studies from (alphabetically) Ghana, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, along with key insights for actors aiming to integrate social protection and health coverage.

In each country, the importance of the National Society in the provision of health care is explored to demonstrate the potential of civil society as a whole in supporting and enhancing national efforts.

Social protection is designed to reduce poverty, inequality, and vulnerability, while the objective of universal health coverage is to provide people with access to quality and timely health services without financial hardship; they align well.

The relationship is further cemented by the International Labour Organization’s 2012 recommendation on “social protection floors” that provide guidance on both income protection for all and the provision of essential healthcare services.

In the context of climate change, extreme weather is are expected to strain both systems, threatening health and well-being and exacerbating inequalities.

‘Cyclical losses’

Additionally, new climate-related health-risks such as increased heat stress or the spread of infectious diseases may worsen the social determinants of health by increasing poverty.

“Cyclical losses and additional expenses resulting from extreme-weather events along with the slow degradation of productive livelihoods that are dependent on a stable climate entrench people in poverty,” the new brief says.

The IFRC has also recognized social protection as a crucial investment for increasing people’s resilience to climate change in the most vulnerable countries.

Key lessons and recommendations outlined in the brief include:

*Integration of universal health coverage and social protection needs to be entrenched in law.
*National Societies can support UHC goals and linkages with social protection.
*A pro-poor approach should underline both social protection and universal health coverage.
*Pre-existing social protection mechanisms can assist in achieving health coverage for all.
*Health care and social protection benefit from assessing climate risks and impacts.

Universal Health Coverage Day on 12 December is the annual rallying point for the global movement for health for all, marking the anniversary of the UN’s endorsement of universal health coverage in 2012.

A Vietnamese Red Cross volunteer makes house calls in a campaign on dengue fever in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Chanh district. (File photo: The Anh/IFRC-Climate Centre)