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Women and Girls Hold the Key to Universal Health Coverage

Sexual and reproductive services are often left out of health-care strategies for the sake of political expediency. This threatens to derail efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of universal health coverage by 2030.

NEW YORK – Health care is a human right, yet roughly half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people – forgoes essential health services due to financial constraints or lack of accessible facilities. Universal health coverage (UHC) could change this worrying statistic. But if its promise is to be fulfilled, sexual and reproductive health services must be included.

The UHC idea is simple and powerful: guaranteeing access to quality health services, essential medicines, and vaccines, and insuring people against catastrophic and routine health costs, would reduce poverty and improve health outcomes. That is why UHC was established in 2015 as a central tenet of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs also enshrine sexual and reproductive health as an essential condition of gender equality; without it, women and girls cannot control other aspects of their lives. But sexual and reproductive health is often discarded from health-care strategies for the sake of political expediency, threatening to derail efforts to ensure UHC by 2030.

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