WHO backs use of mobile phones to increase health insurance coverage
According to a case study by the WHO published as part of activities to mark the International Day for Universal Health Coverage (IDFUHC), celebrated at the weekend, Gabon’s health insurance programme now covers 99 percent of the country’s poor, helping provide services that would otherwise be out of reach.
According to a case study by the WHO, mobile phones are becoming one of the world’s most important health tools, used in many countries to track exercise, ensure medicines are genuine, and even to read blood glucose levels; and in Gabon, they are being used to raise revenue for the national health system.
The WHO report titled “The road to universal health coverage: A case study on Gabon,” noted: “A 10 percent levy on the revenues of mobile phone companies and on mobile phone usage, introduced by Gabon’s government in 2008, has helped to more than double the funds for a health insurance programme that now covers 99 percent of the equatorial nation’s poor, giving them access to critical health services such as care during pregnancy.
“The levy is one of a set of measures that increased enrolment in health insurance plans in Gabon to 45 percent of the population in 2012 from less than 20 percent in 2007. Gabon is one of more than 100 countries that have approached WHO for advice on how to move towards universal health coverage to ensure that their populations can access quality health services without suffering financial hardship.”
A WHO senior health financing specialist who co-authored a review of Gabon’s health finance reforms last year, Dr. Hélène Barroy, said: “From the start the government put the focus on the poor, and then they implemented reforms quickly.
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