Traffic in Dhaka, Bangladesh
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The challenges

As global advances are threatened by climate change, faltering aid commitments, and the tightening of borders, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remind us that human progress relies on action from all sectors, including health. Health systems need to look beyond the provision of care to address challenges such as emerging infections, ageing populations, and the mass movement of people.

A major obstacle to achieving the health-related SDGs is the weakness of health systems in many countries, and their struggle to effectively improve the health of their populations – particularly the most marginalized and vulnerable people.

Despite phenomenal increases in global wealth, poor people remain more vulnerable to health risks, including the growing burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. Poor communities are less likely to access services to manage and treat ill health, and more likely to become poorer trying to do so. Persistent inequalities inhibit poorer and more vulnerable communities from living healthy lives. This is as true for people living in more affluent countries as it is for those in poorer or more fragile places.

This growing recognition of the importance of strong health systems and limited awareness of how health systems work have driven increased interest in the field of health policy and systems research.

The stats

The challenges of access to health services in numbers

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  • 100m

    100 million people are still being pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health care.

  • 50%

    At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services.

  • 930m

    Over 930 million people (around 12 per cent of the world’s population) spend at least 10 per cent of their household budgets on health care.