By ensuring that people receive the essential health services they need, without being exposed to financial hardship, is central to the health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Universal health coverage is the most logical way to ensure that these targets are met.
How countries decide to implement universal health coverage, including the type of coverage they choose and how they finance it, will determine if they can respond effectively to the shifting burden of disease, end extreme poverty, which has a negative bearing on health, and boost shared prosperity.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of universal health coverage will be women and children, who have already benefited from interventions that have led to reduced maternal mortality, and to a great ex-tent, infant mortality. Despite the gains, society is still failing women, and especially those of low socio-economic status.
More than ever, governments, policymakers, donors and development partners need to show continued commitment in supporting women’s health.
Health experts have broadened the spectrum of the wellbeing of women from the narrow reproductive and maternal health, to encompass the entire lifespan.
This expanded scope incorporates the health challenges that affect women beyond their reproductive years, as well as the health challenges they share with men. These challenges include communicable and non-communicable diseases and chronic conditions, mental disorders, injuries and health problems arising from climate change and environmental degradation.
To deliver on women’s wellbeing, health should be implemented as the human right it is. Giving women an adequate standard of health and wellbeing for themselves and their families will spur rapid and sustainable socio-economic development.
When health is treated as a right, we will be able to meet the targets of reducing maternal, neonatal, infant and child mortality, substance misuse, road accidents, universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, and reduce deaths from non-communicable diseases by 2030.
Policymakers, leaders and health practitioners must also factor in goals on water and sanitation, poverty reduction and climate change. They must figure out how to achieve the set targets, to avoid the pitfalls that saw Kenya miss the Millennium Development Goals targets.
The evolving socio-economic, political, environmental and demographic contexts require urgent attention to ensure that women and girls not only survive, but also thrive, so that these benefits are transferred to the next generation.
This will require country-led multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration and mutual accountability to make the required resources available and ensure positive out-comes.
Last week, female medical professionals, academics, scientists, policy makers and other global health actors and experts gathered in Nairobi for the Medical Women’s International Association Regional Conference for Near East and Africa, to share ideas on how to accelerate gains in women’s health and identify solutions to women’s health challenges.
Much remains to be done, but there are already global and regional blueprints to advance the health of women, children and adolescents, and all stakeholders should reposition themselves to leverage the resources and partnerships that will ensure that targets are met this time round.
Dr Sadia is the president of the Kenya Medical Women’s Association