Turkey promotes universal health coverage

A ministerial conference on universal health coverage is taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, on 27–28 June 2013, organized by the Ministry of Health of Turkey; Imperial College London, United Kingdom; Istanbul Medipol University and “The Lancet”, and with the participation of WHO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank.

“Turkey is a good example of what can be achieved through embracing universal health coverage, rapidly translating the vision into results and measurable benefits for the people of Turkey,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. She also emphasized the importance of ensuring continuity of services, and that changes in the health system must be sustainable in the long term. Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, also took part in the conference.

The event brings together 40 Member States and representatives of many international organizations to debate how to extend universal health coverage, and to share experience and good practices in achieving it.

Universal health coverage is increasingly regarded as a means to ensure equitable access to health services and better protection against catastrophic personal expenditure for health care. Thus, there is significant and growing interest in including it among the goals of many countries’ national development plans and in the post-2015 global development agenda.

An article in “The Lancet” – “Universal health coverage in Turkey: enhancement of equity” – was presented at the conference.

Progress towards universal health coverage in Turkey

Since launching its health transformation programme in 2003, the Government of Turkey has worked towards achieving universal health coverage. The programme has introduced major changes in the organization, governance and financing of the health system, as well as the management of resources and delivery of services.

Working with WHO/Europe, Turkey was one of the first countries to align its new national strategic plan for health 2013–2017 with the values and principles of Health 2020, the European policy for health and well-being. Health 2020 supports action across government and society to reduce health inequalities, and ensure universal, equitable, sustainable access to high-quality health systems.

In June 2013, Turkey, in collaboration with WHO/Europe, began developing an integrated and innovative programme to strengthen its health system in enhancing the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This programme encompasses the social determinants of health and the development of a comprehensive national action plan on NCDs.