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1.4 Universal access to health Universal access to health, according to the WHO, is access to key promotional, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health interventions at a feasible cost for the individual, and through which equitable access to health care is achieved for all.

Universal access is, without doubt, the framework needed to provide equitable opportunities to a healthy life for all. However, universal access to healthcare, on its own, is insufficient to obtain health and equal opportunities for health for all. The roots of health inequality lie in social conditions which go beyond health care provision, and which need to be addressed at a broader social level. The 2008 world health report of the WHO describes the three dimensions of universal access to health care (see figure 2):  

Breadth: the proportion of the population that is reached; Depth: the care package that is covered by health insurance. It has a broad range from a minimum set up to high quality care; Height: the share of the costs covered by health insurance. In Belgium, this is usually 75 percent.

Recent reports from the WHO and the ILO present some striking figures: 

Every year approximately 150 million people have financial difficulties due to medical expenses.

Medical expenses annually drive 100 million people below the poverty line

75 percent of the world‟s population can only access a proper care package by taking a serious financial risk.

These figures do not even take into account the countless people for whom a hospital is simply unavailable, or who because of their poverty are unable or unwilling to access care.


Figure 2: The dimensions of universal access to health care

Source: WHO, 2008 World Health Report Evaluation of fos health programmes

Defending the right to health for all  

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Defending the right to health for all  

FOS Brochure