WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 82-88

Universal health coverage and the health Sustainable Development Goal: achievements and challenges for Sri Lanka

1 Department of Economics, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
2 World Health Organization Country Office, Colombo, Sri Lanka
3 National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
Amala de Silva
Department of Economics, University of Colombo, PO Box 1490, Colombo
Sri Lanka
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DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206257

PMID: 28607233

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With state-funded health care that is free at the point of delivery, a sound primary health-care policy and widespread health-care services, Sri Lanka seems a good example of universal health coverage. Yet, health transition and disparities in provision and financing threaten this situation. Sri Lanka did well on the Millennium Development Goal health indicators, but the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for health has a wider purview, which is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”. The gender gap in life expectancy and the gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy make achievement of the health SDG more challenging. Although women and children do well overall, the comparative health disadvantage for men in Sri Lanka is a cause for concern. From a financing perspective, high out-of-pocket expenditure and high utilization of the private sector, even by those in the lowest income quintile, are concerns, as is the emerging “third tier”, where some individuals accessing state health care that is free at the point of delivery actually bear some of the costs of drugs, investigations and surgery. This cost sharing is resulting in catastrophic health expenditure for individuals, and delays in and non-compliance with treatment. These concerns about provision and financing must be addressed, as health transition will intensify the morbidity burden and loss of well-being, and could derail plans to achieve the health SDG.

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