Bangladesh Advances Universal Health Coverage amidst Persistent Inequalities

  • Bangladesh has made significant strides in healthcare but faces persistent inequalities, especially in rural and marginalized communities.
  • Government commitments to UHC by 2032 aim to address challenges like low public investment, high out-of-pocket spending, and unequal access to services.
  • Civil society engagement emphasizes a people-centered health system, advocating for accessible primary healthcare and government accountability.
  • Collaboration between stakeholders is essential to achieve UHC, ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare for all citizens by 2030.

Download the Bangladesh Position Paper on UHC 2023 here.

Bangladesh, despite commendable strides in healthcare over the past decades, continues its journey towards achieving universal health coverage (UHC), aiming to ensure equitable access to quality healthcare for all its citizens. The country’s robust efforts have significantly improved various health indicators, such as infant and maternal mortality rates, and implemented successful mass vaccination programmes. However, persistent inequalities, especially in rural and marginalized communities, underscore the need for further advancements in the healthcare system.

Progress amidst Inequalities:

Bangladesh’s commitment to public health is evident through its accomplishments in reducing mortality rates and maintaining successful immunisation campaigns. Over four decades, the nation has made remarkable progress in child health, achieving milestones like the elimination of neonatal tetanus and polio-free certification. Despite these achievements, challenges persist, particularly in reaching all children and mothers, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed weaknesses in the healthcare system at various levels.

Civil Society Insights:

A recent survey conducted by the SDG Action Alliance in Bangladesh highlighted disparities in healthcare access and social protection among marginalized communities. While vaccination coverage has seen progress, a notable gap remains, with 21.3% of marginalized populations still not vaccinated. Additionally, access to government healthcare facilities faces hurdles like medicine shortages and distant locations, contributing to financial burdens for medical treatment among 46% of respondents.

Government Commitments and Challenges:

Bangladesh aims to achieve UHC by 2032, focusing on increasing fiscal space for health, expanding coverage, and enhancing service quality. However, challenges like low public investment in health, high out-of-pocket spending, and unequal access to services persist. With only 1.5% of GDP allocated to health, well below the global average, Bangladesh faces limitations in providing comprehensive healthcare services to its citizens.

Policy Recommendations and Civil Society Engagement:

To address these challenges, policy recommendations include increasing public spending in health, reducing out-of-pocket expenses, strengthening the primary healthcare system, and addressing social determinants of health. Civil society organizations emphasize the importance of a people-centered health system, advocating for accessible primary healthcare, community empowerment, and government accountability.

Path Forward:

As Bangladesh navigates towards UHC, collaboration between the government, civil society, and other stakeholders is crucial. By prioritizing healthcare financing, service delivery reforms, and social determinant interventions, Bangladesh can advance towards UHC, ensuring the right to health for all its citizens by 2030.