Universal Health Care Day: Centering Family Planning as an essential element of UHC

African American general practitioner having consultations with a couple at medical clinic.

By Catherine Nyambura, FP2030 Partner, Kenya

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is an ambitious aspiration to provide health care for all. As the clock ticks to 2030 — the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — realizing UHC shifts to a matter of urgency and a measure of the world’s commitment to ensuring good health and well-being (SDG 3). In September 2019, a political declaration was adopted at a high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. This supplemented other commitments, including those made through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the World Health Assembly.

In 2021, the reality of the global health landscape has shifted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has showcased the fragility, interconnectedness, and inequality of global health architecture. The pandemic has strained health systems, exposed the fractures in our public health infrastructure, and introduced an almost impulsive need to reprioritize, especially regarding service provision and allocating resources to health care. In this environment, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including family planning, was threatened. The pandemic also showed how quickly a global health emergency can put at risk the precarious gains on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and family planning. Some 218 million women worldwide who want to avoid or delay pregnancy are not using modern contraceptives to plan and space their pregnancies — and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to increase this number. Therefore, the aspiration and promise of UHC provide a tool to fulfill the promise of the SDGs, to leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind first, and a platform for holistic health care to include access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and rights and family planning.

As a partnership made up of governments, donors, multilateral agencies, civil society and youth organizations, and private sector partners, FP2030 is committed to collaborations that advance rights-based family planning. To mark the 2021 UHC Day, the new FP2030 partnership welcomes commitments from stakeholders, both governments and nongovernmental actors. FP2030 commitments are to the broader family planning ecosystem and may include a financial, programmatic, policy, or advocacy focus. We believe family planning is an essential component of UHC as a foundation for good health, a critical component for good health, and an enabler for countries’ paths toward achieving UHC. At FP2030, we believe in working together for a future where women and girls everywhere have the freedom and ability to lead healthy lives, make their own informed decisions about using contraception and having children, and participate as equals in society and its development. UHC is a tool for the realization of this vision for the new FP2030 partnership.

Beyond committing to the new FP2030 partnership, we urge stakeholders to:

  • Commit to continue resourcing family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights, both as crucial components of realizing UHC as a human right and as a bedrock for social, economic, and political development.
  • Commit to multisectoral collaborations that meaningfully engage all stakeholders, including civil society, grassroots groups, and those most affected by lack of health inequities and marginalized due to structural discrimination.
  • Commit to inclusive governance systems that prioritize domestic resourcing for SRHR and family planning as critical components of UHC and that center gender equity and representation in decision-making on health governance and financing.