This report by the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage addresses how countries can make fair progress towards the goal of universal coverage. It explains the relevant tradeoffs between different desirable ends and offers guidance on how to make these tradeoffs.
As health policy-makers around the world seek to make progress towards universal health coverage, they must navigate between two important ethical imperatives: to set national spending priorities fairly and efficiently; and to safeguard the right to health. These imperatives can conflict, leading some to conclude that rights-based approaches present a disruptive influence on health policy, hindering states’ efforts to set priorities fairly and efficiently. Here, we challenge this perception. We argue first that these points of tension stem largely from inadequate (...) interpretations of the aims of priority setting as well as the right to health. We then discuss various ways in which the right to health complements traditional concerns of priority setting and vice versa. Finally, we set out a three-step process by which policy-makers may navigate the ethical and legal considerations at play. (shrink)
The goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) can generally be realized only in stages. Moreover, resource, capacity and political constraints mean governments often face difficult trade-offs on the path to UHC. In a 2014 report, Making fair choices on the path to UHC, the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage articulated principles for making such trade-offs in an equitable manner. We present three case studies which illustrate how these principles can guide practical decision-making. These case studies (...) show how progressive realization of the right to health can be effectively guided by priority-setting principles, including generating the greatest total health gain, priority for the worse off, and financial risk protection. They also demonstrate the value of a fair and accountable process of priority setting. (shrink)
We reply to critics of the World Health Organisation's Report "Making Fair Choices on the Path to Universal Health Coverage". We clarify and defend the report's key moral commitments. We also explain its role in guiding policy in the face of both financial and political constraints on making fair choices.
Clinical ethical support services (CESS) represent a multifaceted field of aims, consultancy models, and methodologies. Nevertheless, the overall aim of CESS can be summed up as contributing to healthcare of high ethical standards by improving ethically competent decision-making in clinical healthcare. In order to support clinical care adequately, CESS must pay systematic attention to all real-life ethical issues, including those which do not fall within the ‘favourite’ ethical issues of the day. In this paper we attempt to capture a comprehensive (...) overview of categories of ethical tensions in clinical care. We present an analytical exposition of ethical structural features in judgement-based clinical care predicated on the assumption of the moral equality of human beings and the assessment of where healthcare contexts pose a challenge to achieving moral equality. The account and the emerging overview is worked out so that it can be easily contextualized with regards to national healthcare systems and specific branches of healthcare, as well as local healthcare institutions. By considering how the account and the overview can be applied to i) improve the ethical competence of healthcare personnel and consultants by broadening their sensitivity to ethical tensions, ii) identify neglected areas for ethical research, and iii) clarify the ethical responsibility of healthcare institutions' leadership, as well as specifying required institutionalized administration, we conclude that the proposed account should be considered useful for CESS. (shrink)
Enormous gaps between HIV burden and health care availability in low-income countries raise severe ethical problems. This article analyzes four HIV-priority dilemmas with interest across contexts and health systems. We explore principled distributive conflicts and use the Atkinson index to make explicit trade-offs between health maximization and equality in health. We find that societies need a relatively low aversion to inequality to favor treatment for children, even with large weights assigned to extending the lives of adults: higher inequality aversion is (...) needed to share resources equally between high-cost and low-cost treatment; higher inequality aversion is needed to favor treatment rather than prevention, and the highest inequality aversion is needed to favor sharing treatment between urban and rural regions rather than urban provision of treatment. This type of ethical sensitivity analysis may clarify the ethics of health policy choice. (shrink)
Next SectionBackground International and national agencies play a major role in setting HIV care-and-treatment priorities in low-income-countries. Little is known about priority setting at lower health-system levels. The objective of this article is to explore experiences of HIV priority decisions, at what levels these decisions are made and how they might influence the distribution of health benefits in a high-endemic region in Tanzania. Methods This is a qualitative study using observations, key documents and semistructured focus-group and individual interviews (43) with (...) health workers, patients and administrators at one regional and one district hospital. The analysis was based on an editing analysis style. Results Health workers did not perceive themselves as bedside rationing agents and they reported following national recommendations and felt they have little impact on important priority decisions. Health benefit distributions were largely determined by priority decisions made at a national level. External factors, such as eligibility criteria, inadequate funding and barriers to access seemed to play a major role in the actual distribution of health services and benefits in the region. Patient groups who were actually given high priority were the sickest patients, those living near a facility and those who could afford long journeys and frequent visits. Low-priority groups were those experiencing other co-morbidities or treatment failure, children, asymptomatic patients and the poorest. Conclusions/significance The interaction of priority setting across health-system levels and their impact on distribution of health outcomes in the population has been underestimated. The distributional pattern of health outcomes calls for further normative assessment. (shrink)
Introduction High healthcare costs make illness precarious for both patients and their families’ economic situation. Despite the recent focus on the interconnection between health and financial risk at the systemic level, the ethical conflict between concerns for potential health benefits and financial risk protection at the household level in a low-income setting is less understood. Methods Using a seven-step ethical analysis, we examine a real-life dilemma faced by families and health workers at the micro level in Ethiopia and analyse the (...) acceptability of limiting treatment for an ill newborn to protect against financial risk. We assess available evidence and ethical issues at stake and discuss the dilemma with respect to three priority setting criteria: health maximisation, priority to the worse-off and financial risk protection. Results Giving priority to health maximisation and extra priority to the worse-off suggests, in this particular case, that limiting treatment is not acceptable even if the total well-being gain from reduced financial risk is taken into account. Our conclusion depends on the facts of the case and the relative weight assigned to these criteria. However, there are problematic aspects with the premise of this dilemma. The most affected parties—the newborn, family members and health worker—cannot make free choices about whether to limit treatment or not, and we thereby accept deprivations of people’s substantive freedoms. Conclusion In settings where healthcare is financed largely out-of-pocket, families and health workers face tragic trade-offs. As countries move towards universal health coverage, financial risk protection for high-priority services is necessary to promote fairness, improve health and reduce poverty. (shrink)
Research Group in Global Health: Ethics, Culture and Economics, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen, Kalfarveien 31, 5018The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health has documented pervasive inequalities in health in many countries. These are clearly associated with unfair distribution of the social determinants of health. Policies directed at reducing this unfair distribution should be promoted across all sectors and institutions responsible for securing equal opportunities and freedom for all citizens. This article argues that such (...) policies will need to balance the competing goals of reducing social group inequalities in health and improving average health. We need a public debate about how to make such difficult choices. This paper outlines a framework that can help us structure our thinking about this dilemma. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Reducing inequalities in health and the determinants of health is a widely acknowledged health policy goal, and methods for measuring inequalities and inequities in health are well developed. Yet, the evidence base is weak for how to achieve these goals. There is a lack of high-quality randomised controlled trials reporting impact on the distribution of health and non-health benefits and lack of methodological rigour in how to design, power, measure, analyse and interpret distributional impact in RCTs. Our overarching aim in (...) this paper is to contribute to the emerging effort to improve transparency and coherence in the theoretical and conceptual basis for RCTs on effective interventions to reduce health inequity. We endeavour to achieve this aim by pursuing two more specific objectives. First, we propose an overview of three broader health equity frameworks and clarify their implications for the measurement of health inequality in RCTs. Second, we seek to clarify the relationship between theory and translational challenges that researchers would need to attend to, in order to ensure that equity-relevant RCTs are coherently grounded in theory. (shrink)
In the Global Burden of Disease study, disease burden is measured as disability-adjusted life years. The paramount assumption of the DALY is that it makes sense to aggregate years lived with disability and years of life lost. However, this is not smooth sailing. Whereas morbidity is something that happens to an individual, loss of life itself occurs when that individual’s life has ended. YLLs quantify something that involves no experience and does not take place among living individuals. This casts doubt (...) on whether the YLL is an individual burden at all. If not, then YLDs and YLLs are incommensurable. There are at least three responses to this problem, only one of which is tenable: a counterfactual account of harm. Taking this strategy necessitates a re-examination of how we count YLLs, particularly at the beginning of life. (shrink)
Background and objectives: Summary measures of overall health inequality are independent of group membership and enable international comparisons of distribution of health. We compare inequality between and within countries over time and identify normative issues underlying such comparisons. Methods: We used a set of modeled historical life tables for 193 World Health Organization member states from the years 1990, 2000 and 2008 and calculated inequality in age at death and inequality-adjusted life expectancy. Results: Our calculations suggest that overall health inequalities (...) in age at death have been decreasing in the period 1990–2008 in most countries of the world. Only 20 countries experienced increasing distribution in age at death. Simultaneously, overall life expectancy has increased in 85 per cent of all countries. Thus, the combined measure IALE has improved globally. The same overall trend of reduced health inequality applies to all groups of countries stratified by income level. Conclusion: Overall health inequalities, in addition to average health outcomes, could be reported regularly to monitor the health status of populations and the performance of health systems. We find, on normative grounds, the combined measure IALE to be preferable to measuring trends in inequality only. Likewise, we find the Absolute GiniH to be preferable to Relative GiniH. (shrink)
Progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) requires making difficult trade-offs. In this journal, Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, has endorsed the principles for making such decisions put forward by the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and UHC. These principles include maximizing population health, priority for the worse off, and shielding people from health-related financial risks. But how should one apply these principles in particular cases and how should one adjudicate between them when their demands conflict? This paper by some (...) members of the Consultative Group and a diverse group of health policy professionals addresses these questions. It considers three stylized versions of actual policy dilemmas. Each of these cases pertains to one of the three principal dimensions of progress towards UHC: which services to cover first, which populations to prioritize for coverage, and how to move from out-of-pocket expenditures to pre-payment with pooling of funds. Our cases are simplified to highlight common trade-offs. While we make specific recommendations, our primary aim is to demonstrate both the form and substance of the reasoning involved in striking a fair balance between competing interests on the road to UHC. (shrink)
Background In the context of limited health care budgets in countries where Neglected Tropical Diseases are endemic, scaling up disease control interventions entails the setting of priorities. However, solutions based solely on cost-effectiveness analyses may lead to biased and insufficiently justified priorities. Objectives The objectives of this paper are to 1) demonstrate how a range of equity concerns can be used to identify feasible priority setting criteria, 2) show how these criteria can be fed into a multi-criteria decision-making matrix, and (...) 3) discuss the conditions under which this decision-making procedure should be carried out in a real-world decision-making context. Methods This paper draws on elements from theories of decision analysis and ethical theories of fair resource allocation. We explore six typical NTD interventions by employing a modified multi-criteria decision analysis model with predefined criteria, drawn from a priority setting guide under development by the WHO. To identify relevant evidence for the six chosen interventions, we searched the PubMed and Cochrane databases. Discussion Our in vitro multi-criteria decision analysis suggested that case management for visceral leishmaniasis should be given a higher priority than mass campaigns to prevent soil-transmitted helminthic infections. This seems to contradict current health care priorities and recommendations in the literature. We also consider procedural conditions that should be met in a contextualised decision-making process and we stress the limitations of this study exercise. Conclusion By exploring how several criteria relevant to the multi-facetted characteristics of NTDs can be taken into account simultaneously, we are able to suggest how improved priority settings among NTDs can be realised. (shrink)
This paper presents the Norwegian national health care system and the manner in which the problems of rationing and pluralism of values create new ethical and political challenges. The paper concludes with some doubts about the feasibility of the transformation taking place within this kind of health care system, with special reference to governmental control and consumer preference. Keywords: national health care, pluralism, rationing, two-tier system CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
La cobertura universal de salud está en el centro de la acción actual para fortalecer los sistemas de salud y mejorar el nivel y la distribución de la salud y los servicios de salud. Este documento es el informe fi nal del Grupo Consultivo de la OMS sobre la Equidad y Cobertura Universal de Salud. Aquí se abordan los temas clave de la justicia (fairness) y la equidad que surgen en el camino hacia la cobertura universal de salud. Por lo (...) tanto, el informe es pertinente para cada agente que infl uye en ese camino y en particular para los gobiernos, ya que se encargan de supervisar y guiar el progreso hacia la cobertura universal de salud. (shrink)