The importance of including palliative care in the Universal Health Coverage and how to achieve it

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Strahil Vasilev, a 22 years old, fifth year Medical student in Medical University of Sofia, Bulgaria. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Since 1883, when the first step towards health coverage for everyone in need was made, we have seen an amazing development in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) system. [1] UHC is defined as ensuring that all people can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship. [2]

Although palliative care is included in the definition of UHC, still the main attention of the health system is towards the acute illnesses and the focus is on a specific component (treatment) rather than the whole continuum, leading to neglecting important parts of the health care. [3] Palliative care is provided by multidisciplinary teams and it aims to improve the quality of life of everyone living or dying with life limiting conditions. [5]

In today’s world, medicine is on a high level and this leads to a longer lifespan, but with it comes the more illnesses, because the longer the person lives, the more chance of him living with a disease of some kind. In the last few years a rise in the chronic condition has been observed, which makes palliative care a really important part of medicine and health care. People with serious health related suffering worldwide are 61.5 million. [6] Palliative care will be beneficial for everyone, because it is proven that care of this kind can improve the quality of life for these people and improving their quality of life is essential, since curing them is impossible. If palliative care is fully included in the UHC, it will increase the quality of life of ill people, mainly at the end of their life, it will reduce their financial burden and alleviate their pain. [4] Palliative care should be a main part of UHC and a central component of every country’s health system. [5]

With all that said, the way we can advocate for the inclusion of palliative care in UHC is by making distinct strategies and plans on a local, national and global level. Key component should be connecting patients with the government to work and raise awareness about the problem in the society. People and associations should actively promote palliative care as a service that must be free of charge and universally available. Palliative care should be included in the training of the social and health care workers. A rigorous and robust research in the field of cost-effectiveness, data collection and monitoring of the unbiased coverage of palliative care. [5,6]

“I regard universal health coverage as the single most powerful concept that public health has to offer. It is inclusive. It unifies services and delivers them in a comprehensive and integrated way, based on primary health care.”

Margaret Chan – WHO Executive Director


1 – Wikipedia contributors. Universal health care. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. December 21, 2020, 04:31 UTC. Available at: Accessed December 21, 2020.

2 – World Health Organization, World Bank. Tracking universal health coverage: first global monitoring

report. Geneva: WHO; 2015 Jun.

3 – Knaul FM, Bhadelia A, Atun R, Frenk J. Achieving Effective Universal Health Coverage And Diagonal Approaches To Care For Chronic Illnesses. Health Aff (Millwood). 2015;34(9):1514-1522. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0514

4 – Adithyan GS, Jose A. The Importance of Integrating Palliative Care in Universal Health Coverage Discourse in India. Indian J Community Med. 2018;43(4):320-321. doi:10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_304_17

5 –

6 – Knaul FM, Farmer PE, Krakauer EL, et al. Alleviating the access abyss in palliative care and pain relief-an imperative of universal health coverage: the Lancet Commission report [published correction appears in Lancet. 2018 Mar 9;:]. Lancet. 2018;391(10128):1391-1454. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32513-8

About the author

Strahil Vasilev is 22 years old, fifth year Medical student in Medical University of Sofia, Bulgaria. He has been a volunteer at Acibadem City Clinic, Cardio-vascular center, since 2019. He is a member of the Association of Medical Students in Bulgaria, Ambassador for Juvenes Pro Medicina and Ambassador for Antwerp Medical Student’s Congress. His main interests are cardiology, chronic cardiovascular diseases -prevention, treating and burden.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

FROM THE FIELD: India’s plastic waste revolution

Integration of migrants: Commission launches a public consultation and call for an expert group on the views of migrants

Human rights: breaches in Russia, the Rakhine State and Bahrain

How upskilling could help cities rebuild after Coronavirus

EntEx Organises 5 Summer Schools for Young Entrepreneurs across Europe in June/July 2014

The female struggle in the face of medical devaluation

‘The welfare of the Libyan people’ the UN’s sole agenda for the country, says Guterres in Tripoli

Dare to be vulnerable, and three other lessons in leadership

How businesses can create an ethical culture in the age of tech

The challenge to be a good healthcare professional

Act now to prevent Desert Locust catastrophe in Horn of Africa: UN agencies

The most unlikely innovators are changing ICT for development – it’s time we took notice

What is environmental racism?

Climate change: cutting the good by the root?

Guterres condemns killing of Bangladeshi peacekeeper in South Sudan, during armed attack on UN convoy

Venezuela’s needs ‘significant and growing’ UN humanitarian chief warns Security Council, as ‘unparalleled’ exodus continues

More than speed: 5G could become the next big economic driver

Asylum: more solidarity among EU member states and funds for frontline countries

European Commission requests that Italy presents a revised draft budgetary plan for 2019

Greener tourism: Greater collaboration needed to tackle rising emissions

Juncker’s Investment Plan in desperate need for trust and funds from public and private investors

Europe, US and Russia haggle over Ukraine’s convulsing body; Russians and Americans press on for an all out civil war

The “Colombo Declaration” adopted at the World Conference on Youth 2014

IMF: World cup and productivity

Cameron postpones speech in Holland

‘Great cause of concern’ UN chief tells Security Council, surveying ‘bleak’ state of civilian protection

1.1 billion people still lack electricity. This could be the solution

5 leadership lessons I learned from doing my own ‘undercover boss’

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

The World Health Organization has called on countries to ‘test, test, test’ for coronavirus – this is why

EU budget: Commission helps prepare new Cohesion programmes with Regional Competitiveness Index and Eurobarometer

Catalonia secessionist leader takes Flemish ‘cover’; Spain risks more jingoist violence

Marriage equality boosted employment of both partners in US gay and lesbian couples

Europe had a record year for Measles – and it’s partly down to anti-vaccine campaigners

From Policy to Reality: Discrepancies in Universal Health Care Systems across the EU

AI looks set to disrupt the established world order. Here’s how

Early healthcare investment is our best chance at healthy ageing

The EU sides with China against the US; but has Germany capitulated to America?

Preserving biodiversity vital to reverse tide of climate change, UN stresses on International Day

Educate children in their mother tongue, urges UN rights expert

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

GDPR and the World Cup have these 4 things in common

Your chocolate can help save the planet. Here’s how

ECB embarks on the risky trip to Eurozone banking universe

New rules to help consumers join forces to seek compensation

Thinking like Leonardo da Vinci will help children tackle climate change

Parliament approves EU rules requiring life-saving technologies in vehicles

World Bank downgrades global growth forecasts, poorest countries hardest hit

What we need is more (and better) multilateralism, not less

International Women’s Day 2019: more equality, but change is too slow

How to fix our planet: the pioneers fighting to bring nature back

How China Mended My Heart

Children are forgetting the names for plants and animals

Labels for tyres: deal for greener and safer road transport

Commission presents its response to Antisemitism and a survey showing Antisemitism is on the rise in the EU

The Ecofin deceives the SMEs with the EIB €10bn capital increase

Consumers suffer three defeats

Sexual exploitation and abuse: latest UN quarterly update

The economic effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus around the world

New VAT rules in the EU: how a digital sea could have become an ocean

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s