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SPECIAL ARTICLE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 57  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 236-241

Universal health care: The changing international discourse


Associate Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Ramila Bisht
Associate Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.123257

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Nearly 34 years ago, in 1978 in the face of a looming crisis in the health of the world's populations and rising health inequality, 134 countries came together to sign the historic Alma Ata Declaration where the idea of primary health care as the chosen path to "Health for All" was formulated. However even before the declaration and more so since, countries have diverse interpretations of Universalism, each setting it in the context of its own health care model. These have ranged from the minimalist to the more comprehensive welfare state. Today, as health statistics reveal, the crisis has deepened, not only in the developing world but also in the developed world. It is important to debate the nature of the crisis and understand current policy initiatives and their ideological legitimations. The paper attempts to trace, clarify and account for the shifts in international discourse on universal health care (UHC). It argues that the idea of UHC is still with us, but there have occurred substantial shifts in discourse and meaning, shaped by changing international and national contexts and social forces impinging on health systems. The current concept of universal health coverage has only a notional allusion to universality of Alma Ata and disregards its fundamental principles. It concludes that the shifts are detrimental and its value in promoting health for all is likely to be severely limited.


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