Palliative care effectiveness at Universal Health Care: an eminent need

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Letícia Yoshie Ueda, 21 years old, 2nd year of medical school, academic at Centro Universitário Ingá (UNINGÁ) – PR, Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was created with the aim of providing health services to all individuals without suffering financial risk. These services range from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. Specifically, palliative care encompasses health services that aim to alleviate symptoms and, consequently, pain and suffering arising from an untreatable, life-threatening disease. In other words, palliative care aims to guarantee the quality of life of critically ill patients, especially those at the end of their lives.

Currently, with the progressive change in the epidemiological profile of society, which is becoming increasingly aging and which presents a significant number of individuals affected by serious chronic diseases, the growing need for palliative care services is evident. According to records from the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 58 million deaths per year in the world, 34 million are due to disabling and incurable chronic-degenerative diseases.

That said, it appears that technological and scientific advances have created a paradox: life expectancy has been increased and as a consequence the number of patients affected by chronic non-curable diseases too. These are often subjected to exhausting, inadequate and ineffective treatments, causing discomfort and poor quality of life for the patient, which can also result in both physical and psychological illness of the patient’s family members. Faced with this, it is possible to observe that the need for palliative care grows disproportionately with its application, which is neglected even being among one of the UHC principles. A fact proven in the data that affirms that each year, over 40 million people (including family members / caregivers) need palliative care in the world, however, only 14% of these actually receive it.

Furthermore, it is known that palliative care not only improves the quality of life of patients and their families, but also results in less use of resources, since it decreases hospitalizations and the use of unnecessary health services, collaborating so that countries can provide more services for free on a sustainable basis, since UHC does not mean free coverage for all services, given the financial infeasibility.

Therefore, it is based on the significant number of people in need of palliative care and the fact that its applicability results in efficient use of resources, that it is necessary to defend the factual inclusion of palliative care in Universal Health Coverage.

Bibliographic references

  1. WORD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. Cobertura universal de saúde (CUS). Available from : https://www.who.int/world-health-day/world-health-day-2019/fact-sheets/details/universal-health-coverage-(uhc). Access on: 16 Dec. 2020.
  2. GOMES, ANA LUISA ZANIBONI; OTHERO, MARÍLIA BENSE. Cuidados paliativos. Estud. av., São Paulo, v. 30, n. 88, pág. 155-166, dezembro de 2016. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-40142016000300155&lng=en&nrm=iso. Access on: 16 Dec. 2020. 
  3. PINELI, Paula Pereira et al . Cuidado Paliativo e Diretrizes Curriculares: Inclusão Necessária.Rev. bras. educ. med.,  Rio de Janeiro ,  v. 40, n. 4, p. 540-546,  Dec.  2016 . Available from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0100-55022016000400540&lng=en&nrm=iso. Access on  16  Dec.  2020. 

About the author

Letícia Yoshie Ueda, 21 years old, 2nd year of medical school, academic at Centro Universitário Ingá (UNINGÁ) – PR, Brazil. Member of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations of Brazil (IFMSA BRAZIL) and local directress of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP) of local committee IFMSA BRAZIL-UNINGÁ.

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