Bangladesh: Roundtable Discussion on Universal Health Coverage

Participants at the roundtable session, March 5, 2017.

In March, the USAID-funded Health Finance and Governance (HFG) project and its partners in Bangladesh organized a roundtable discussion on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) with Prothom Alo, a popular daily newspaper in Bangladesh.

The discussion was chaired by Mohammed Nasim MP, the Honorable Ministers of Health, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW). 14 renowned policymakers, economists, development partners, and government officials took part in the discussion aimed at facilitating the exchange of views, experiences, and learnings towards achieving awareness on UHC among key stakeholders in Bangladesh to:

  • Achieve a common understanding of individual and organizational roles in advancing UHC in Bangladesh’s long-term health strategy;
  • Mobilize and consolidate UHC efforts by the Government of Bangladesh, development partners, and other stakeholders;
  • Improve the public’s understanding of UHC, especially regarding the role high out-of-pocket spending has in contributing to poverty; and
  • Identifying overall challenges and possible solutions for accessing quality essential services at an affordable cost.

Speakers urged the government to focus more on the health sector and sought donor assistance to help the government meet Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure quality healthcare for all without financial hardships by 2030. Roundtable participants discussed the current situation and prospects for Bangladesh around achieving UHC; the role of different ministries, directorates, donors, and academics in this agenda; and the implementation challenges of UHC—suggesting UHC be considered a strategic agenda rather than sectoral.

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman of the Power and Participation Research Centre said: “We need to address the issues and increase the use of technology to enhance healthcare services for all people.”

The chairman of the session, Mohammad Nasim MP, Honorable Minister of Health, focused on the importance of UHC in Bangladesh and the need for human resources to bring the vision to reality. He said, “UHC is important for the healthcare sector of the country, but it is difficult to achieve due to a shortage of resources.” To achieve UHC in Bangladesh, he added: “We need more budgetary allocation in this sector for infrastructural development and recruiting more doctors, nurses and technicians.”

The session was organized as part of a USAID-supported effort in Bangladesh to raise national awareness of UHC through various forms of communication, developing a critical group of professionals who can carry forward the UHC agenda in Bangladesh. It was co-organized by the Centre of Excellence for Universal Health Coverage (CoE-UHC) at the James P. Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH), BRAC University, in partnership with the MOHFW’s Health Economics Unit (HEU).

The roundtable was covered by several TV stations and newspapers:

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