Universal Health Coverage

Universal Health Coverage and cancer control

What is Universal Health Coverage (UHC)?

Universal Health Coverage means that all people can benefit from quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship. It has 3 key dimensions:

  1. Access to health services: everyone who needs services should get them, not only those who can pay for them.
  2. Financial risk protection: people should not fall into debt paying for treatment and care. 
  3. Quality of services:  services should be adequate and effective.

Why is UHC important?

50% of population are still missing universal health coverage
At least half of the world's population still lack full coverage with essential health services.
  • At least half of the world’s population (7.3 billion people) still do not have access to the full range of essential health services.
  • Over 800 million people (almost 12% of the world's population) use at least 10% of their household budgets for out-of-pocket health expenditures. 
  • Almost 180 million people spend a quarter or more of their household budgets on health.
  • This population is increasing at a rate of almost 5% per year, with women among those worst affected (WHO/World Bank 2017).
  • In a number of countries, the cost of cancer treatment and care, including cancer drugs, has pushed many cancer patients and their families to near bankruptcy.
  • A study from India, for example, found that the odds of incurring catastrophic hospitalisation expenditures were nearly 160% higher for a patient with cancer than the odds of incurring catastrophic spending when hospitalisation was due to a communicable condition (WHO 2011).

*Sources: World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

Political commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage

On 23rd September 2019, political leaders from around the world came together at the first United Nations (UN) High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to mobilise political support and commit to achieving UHC.

The meeting saw the adoption of the 2019 Political Declaration “Universal health coverage: moving together to build a healthier world” which expresses countries’ support for UHC. This sets out a high-level framework for the development and implementation of national UHC plans with the engagement of civil society organisations and other stakeholders. The adoption is an important milestone for the global health community and offers several opportunities to strengthen cancer control.

UICC dedicated the 2019 edition of the World Cancer Leaders' Summit to the topic of Cancer and Universal Health Coverage. The summit ended with a strong call to action urging governments to fulfill their commitments and the entire cancer community to provide support and drive action. 

Universal Health Coverage: Background & Political Commitments

Replay of the webinar conducted by André M. Ilbawi, MD – World Health Organization (WHO)

Cancer & UHC documents
Get involved!



Cancer advocates will need to take a proactive approach to champion the integration of essential cancer services in national plans and benefit packages. View some example actions to support the integration of cancer within UHC packages in their contexts.


Read more about UHC
Wednesday 16 October 2019 – Main Summit Day H.E. Berdibek Saparbaev, Deputy Prime Minister, Kazakhstan
17 October 2019

Governments need to fulfil their commitments to Universal Health Coverage

The 2019 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit hosted by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) ended with a strong call to action in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. 

A bustling street of New York with joggers everywhere
30 September 2019

UICC welcomes political declaration on Universal Health Coverage

The first United Nations (UN) High-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in New York ended with the adoption of a political declaration that represents a significant milestone for global health.


Reporting back: UN interactive multi-stakeholder hearing on UHC

On the 29th April, over 600 members of the global health community will join the UN multistakeholder hearing on UHC to contribute their expertise and experiences.

Last update: 
Monday 27 July 2020