Over the past decades, many countries in Asia and the Pacific have rapidly expand their social health protection coverage and have made great strides in their path to universal protection. However, despite laudable progress, the effective realization of the human rights to health and social security is not yet a reality for all and has been further hampered by the ongoing COVID19 pandemic.
In recent years, 135 million people were pushed below into poverty due to healthcare related spending and even though legally more than three-quarters of the population in the region is legally covered for healthcare access, effective protection is much lower. Lack of awareness of rights and entitlements, and practical challenges to access these, make it so that only 63.4% of the population is protected by a health care scheme, leaving about 1.6 billion people in the region with no protection at all. Women, informal economy workers, migrant workers are disproportionately affected and only 45.9% of women are protected in case of loss of income during maternity.
The ILO regional report on the extension of social health protection in Asia and the Pacific Extending social health protection: Accelerating progress towards Universal Health Coverage in Asia and the Pacific, was drafted in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and reveals the crucial role of social health protection to protect people’s heath, jobs and income in times of crisis and beyond.
Composed of two parts, the publication provides first a comparative analysis of social health protection in Asia and the Pacific across coverage, adequacy, institutional efficiency and financing arrangements. The second part was the developed with the support of CONNECT experts from across the region. It analyses the experiences of 21 countries in the region and their efforts to build universal social health protection systems that are resilient, effective, inclusive, adequate and sustainable over the long term. It highlights progress made, challenges encountered and remaining coverage gaps, and explores their root causes. CONNECT peer-reviewer from South Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam provided efforts and commitment to provide an in-depth review of their country profiles and ensure that the information relayed was correct, up to date and comprehensive.
The highly anticipated report was launched during a two-day online regional conference on ‘Extending Social Health Protection in the Asia Pacific region: towards Universal Health Coverage’, organised by the UN Issue-Based Coalition for Empowerment and Inclusion and CONNECT, which took place on 7th and 9th December 2021. Over 350 participants from across the regions attended the conference, which provided space and an opportunity to foster exchanges and promote mutual learning among countries in the Asia Pacific region and beyond via various technical sessions with invited experts, including CONNECT member institutions.