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Meeting on accelerating progress towards universal health coverage

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Regional meeting on accelerating progress towards universal health coverage: global experiences and lessons for the Eastern Mediterranean Region


Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean“Inequities in health represent the most important challenges facing many countries of the Region. The confrontation of these challenges demands that health systems develop a clear vision and strategies to achieve universal coverage and equitable health financing policies.” A regional meeting on accelerating progress towards universal health coverage: global experiences and lessons for the Eastern Mediterranean Region will be held by the WHO Regional Office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 5 to 7 December 2013 at Al Bustan Rotana hotel. The purpose of this Conference is to share international experiences with regional policy- and decision-makers to assist them in devising a clear vision for health system reform to achieve the goal of universal health coverage.

The specific objectives of the meeting are to:

  • share evidence and exchange experience of countries from within and outside the Region about what has worked and what has not in addressing challenges related to the collection, pooling and purchasing functions of health financing
  • document and discuss countries’ experiences in addressing challenges related to other health system components, in particular the health workforce, service provision and health technologies
  • support  countries, at their various levels of socioeconomic development, to formulate a vision and a roadmap, to address health system challenges to move towards universal health coverage
  • promote multisectoral collaboration and foster partnerships between national and international stakeholders to support countries of the Region to move towards universal health coverage and sustain prior achievements. 

It will be attended by between 100 and 150 policy- and decision-makers and health system experts from ministries of health, finance, economy, planning and development, in addition to academics and representatives of the World Bank, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Development Programme, and donor agencies active in supporting health system strengthening in the Region – UK Department for International Development, United States Agency for International Development, Canadian International Development Agency, Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The agenda will be arranged around the three dimensions of universal health coverage: financial protection, provision of needed services, and expanding coverage to the poor and vulnerable.

It is expected that the meeting will result in the development of a regional roadmap to accelerate progress towards universal health coverage in the Region.

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Day 1 – Thursday, 5 December 2013

Opening Session





Address by H.E. Mr Abdul Rahman bin Mohamad Al-Owais

Minister of Health, United Arab Emirates


Address by Dr Ala Alwan,

Regional Director, WHO/EMRO


The Road to Universal Health Coverage: WHR 2010 and beyond

Dr David Evans, Director, Health Systems Governance and Financing, HGF/WHO/HQ


World Bank: Helping countries move towards UHC

Dr Enis Baris, Director, MENA
Sector Manager, Health
Nutrition & Population, World Bank


Universal Health Coverage: Challenges and Opportunities for EMR Countries

Dr Sameen Siddiqi, Director, Health System Development, WHO/EMRO


Objectives of the Meeting and Agenda

Dr Awad Mataria, Health Economist, WHO/EMRO


Panel Discussion



Coffee Break


Session 1 – Political Commitment and UHC


Universal health coverage in the European Region: how we get there?

Dr Mihály Kökeny
former Minister of Health of Hungary


Translating political commitment into actionable program: Reaching out to the informal sector in Thailand

Dr Suwit Wibulpolprasert
Senior Advisor on
Disease Control
Ministry of Public Health


Towards Universal Health Coverage: Progress and achievements of the health reform in China

Prof Meng Qingyue
Dean of the School of
Public Health and CEO
China Center for Health
Development Studies
Peking University, China


Moroccan Experience in Progressing towards UHC: Political Commitment and Policy Implementation

Mr Hazim Jilali
Director General, l’Agence Nationale 
de l'Assurance Maladie


Panel Discussion



Lunch Break


Session 2 – Expanding Financial Protection for UHC


Transforming the Turkish Health Care System to move towards UHC – Health Sector Report put in Perspective

Prof. Recep Akdağ
Former Minister of Health of Turkey


Good Health at Low Cost – How did other low-income countries do it?

Dr Hailom Banteyerga
Professor in health communication
and systems, Ethiopia


The role of Social Health Insurance in Promoting UHC – the Experience of the Philippines

Eduardo Banzon, Regional Advisor, Health Economics & Health Care Financing, WHO-EMRO


Jordanian experience: Keeping out of pocket spending under control

Jamal Abu-Saif, Director of
Technical Affairs and Studies
High Health Council


Panel Discussion



Coffee Break



Panel Discussion: Reducing waste and improving efficiency

Dr Henk Bekedam; Dr Faleh Ali; Dr Dr Enis Baris 
Moderated by: Dr Awad Mataria 



Role of academia and civil society in promoting UHC 

Day 2: Friday, 6 December 2013

Session 3 – Monitoring Progress towards UHC & Developing a Research Agenda


Framework for monitoring progress towards UHC

Dr David Evans, Director, Health Systems Governance and Financing, HGF/WHO-HQ


Discussion on framework for monitoring UHC



The Importance of Implementation Research for Achieving Universal Health Coverage

Prof David Peters, Chair
Department of International Health
Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health


The French Experience in Promoting and Maintaining UHC – the Efficiency/Equity Trade Off in Expanding Coverage to All?

Prof Jean-Paul Moatti,
ITOM ISP, France


Panel Discussion



Coffee Break


Session 4 – Increasing Service Coverage for UHC


National Health Service/UK and quality of health care

Prof Salman Rawaf
Prof of Public Health
Imperial College London, UK


Access to essential medicine and health technology in the context of Universal Health Coverage

Dr Hans V. Hogerzeil
Professor of Global Health and the Right to Health, Groningen University, Netherlands


Moving towards universal health coverage  in countries with health workforce crisis – the way forward

Dr Barbra Stilwell, Senior Director , Health Workforce Solutions, IntraHealth International


Family Practice in Lower- and Upper-Middle Income Countries – summary of the experience of Brazil, China and Thailand

Dr Hernan Julio Montenegro
Von Mühlenbrock
Health System Adviser, HIS/SDS/ WHO-HQ


Prayers and Lunch Break



Panel Discussion


Session 5 – Population Coverage: Reaching out to ALL


Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana [RSBY] Experience from India: Moving towards UHC

Dr Nishant Jain
Deputy program director
New Delhi, India


Establishing Urban Primary Health Care: Experience from Iran

Dr Arash Rashidian, Director
Health Systems Research
TUMS, Tehran


Extending coverage to the expatriate population in GCC countries

Dr Abdalla Sherif, Manager of
Health Insurance
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Extending population coverage in a low income setting: the Experience of Ghana

Dr Frank Nyonator
ex-Ministerial Adviser on
HSS and
ex-Director in HRH Directorate
MOH, Ghana


Panel Discussion



Coffee Break


Session 6 – Developing a roadmap for UHC in EMR Countries


Introduction followed by Group Work: Developing a Roadmap for UHC in the EMR

Dr Sameen Siddiqi – Director Health System Development, WHO/EMRO


Group Work: Developing a Roadmap for UHC in the EMR  [Breakout rooms]

Facilitators from WHO, WB and Regional HS Network

Day 3: Saturday, 7 December 2013

Session 7 – Beyond the three Dimensions of UHC 


Beyond Bismarck and Beveridge: innovations in health financing to achieve UHC

Dr Sania Nishtar, Founder and President, Heartfile


The role of SDH in advancing UHC

Dr Jeanette Vega, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation


Multi-sectoral Mechanisms to Enhance the Move towards Universal Health Coverage

Prof Ilona Kickbusch

Director, Global Health Programme, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland


Perceptions and policy drivers of UHC

Dr Abdul Ghaffar
Executive Director
Alliance for Health Policy
and System Research


Panel Discussion



Coffee Break


Session 8 – The Role of Development Partners in UHC


Round Table: Development partners’ views and commitment towards UHC in the EMR

Moderated by: Sir George Alleyne
professor Bloomberg School of
Public Health
John Hopkins University


Panel Discussion: Expediting the move towards UHC in EMR – The way forward




Lunch Break


Concluding Session


Presentation on Road Map for UHC in EMR






Closing remarks

Background documents

World Health Reports

World Health Report 2013: Research for universal health coverage

World Health Report 2010 - Health systems financing: the path to universal coverage

World Health Report 2008 - Primary health care (now more than ever)

World Health Report 2000 - Health systems: improving performance

Related Regional Committee resolutions

Universal health coverage
English | Arabic | French

Health systems strengthening in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region: challenges, priorities and options for future action
English | Arabic | French

Strategic directions to improve health care financing in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: moving towards universal  coverage 2011–2015
EnglishArabic | French

Related Regional Committee papers

Towards universal health coverage: challenges, opportunities and roadmap
English | Arabic | French

Health systems strengthening in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region:challenges, priorities and options for future action
English | Arabic | French

Strategic directions to improve health care financing in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: moving towards universal  coverage 2011–2015
English| Arabic | French

World Health Assembly

A66/24 Universal health coverage - Report by the Secretariat, 22 March 2013

WHA58.33 Sustainable health financing, universal coverage and social health insurance, 2005

WHA64.9 Sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage, 24 May 2011

Concept note

Concept note


Every year, millions of people globally are deprived of needed health care and millions of others experience financial hardship because of the way health services are arranged, delivered and financed. The World Health Report 2010 “Health systems: the path to universal coverage” sheds light on the importance of reshaping national health systems to facilitate countries’ move towards universal health coverage. Universal coverage means that all people have access to needed and quality care, without facing the risk of financial ruin. The approach to achieving this goal is embedded in the values and principles of primary health care.

The journey towards universal health coverage calls for a reform of health systems, as well as addressing social and environmental determinants of health, to fulfil the goal of social health protection and health equity. Successful country experiences have shown that to achieve universal health coverage health financing systems need to be reformed to enhance financial protection and promote fair financing.

Health system strengthening has been identified as one of five strategic priorities for the work of the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean with its Member States over the next five years. A paper presented to the fifty-ninth session of the Regional Committee in October 2012 identified health system challenges for countries in their progress towards achieving universal health coverage in the Region. The Paper devised options for policy-makers to consider in their endeavours to reform national health systems. A follow-up resolution [1] called on the Regional Director to provide Member States with a review of international experiences in moving towards universal health coverage, demonstrating the lessons learned.

[1] Regional Committee Resolution EM/RC59/R.3: “Health systems strengthening in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region: challenges, priorities and options for future action”.

Arabic | French