Universal health coverage

  • At least half the world’s population lack access to essential health services
  • Globally, 800 million people spend more than 10 per cent of their household budget on healthcare
  • Over 60 per cent of people living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer, have experienced catastrophic health expenditure


The burden of disease, including NCDs such as cancer, is disproportionately experienced by low- and middle-income countries, and by marginalised and disadvantaged communities, even within high-income countries.

Health is a fundamental human right, yet at least half of the global population do not receive the health services they need – and for those who do, they do so at considerable cost.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means that all people have access to the quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.

Worldwide, 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year due to health care costs; often forced to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow due to unexpected illness – entrenching a cycle of poverty that is hard to break.

This threatens hard-won health and development gains. The achievement of UHC is therefore a priority within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Law is a powerful tool to advance UHC. From health system design, implementation and governance, to health promotion, disease prevention and delivery of health care at all stages of life – law occupies a central place.

Countries must harness legal and regulatory measures as essential tools to achieve UHC and meet their commitments under the SDGs.

Our contribution

  • We raise awareness amongst public health and development professionals about the crucial role of law and regulations in progressing UHC, driving sustainable development, reducing social inequalities, and realising the right to health.
  • We assist policymakers, civil society organisations, and other global actors to understand the critical importance of harnessing law to progress UHC to meet commitments under the SDGs.
  • We work to empower the health workforce and other global actors for health to effectively use law to advance UHC by strengthening their legal knowledge and skills.
  • We support our global strategic partner, UICC, and NCD Alliance in their efforts to progress commitments in the UN Political Declaration on UHC, in particular the role of law.