Achieving high-quality universal health coverage in Latin America

Poor quality healthcare leads to up to 9.4 million deaths a year worldwide. In Latin America, whilst access to health services has improved, the quality of care varies significantly both between and within countries.

In October 2020, the Academy of Medical Sciences held a virtual workshop with the Argentinian National Academy of Medicine to assess the current healthcare system in Latin America, and explore the potential role of research in accelerating progress towards achieving high-quality universal health coverage (UHC).

UHC aims to ensure that all people have access to essential health services without enduring financial hardship. Many Latin American countries have achieved high levels of healthcare coverage, but differences in the quality of care have led to high levels of health inequalities, with socioeconomically disadvantaged and other marginalised communities showing markedly worse health outcomes.

Today [Wednesday 17 February 2021], we have published a report from the workshop “Achieving universal health coverage in Latin America: The role of quality of care research”, summarising the themes, opportunities and challenges in advancing quality in the UHC agenda, identified by participants.

Key issues highlighted in the report include:

  • Definitions: The challenges in defining ‘quality’ in healthcare, and the lack of standardised and agreed metrics, were felt to be major obstacles to the prioritisation of quality in UHC initiatives.
  • Data: Limited data make it hard to track progress towards quality UHC and to hold authorities accountable for UHC commitments.
  • Community engagement: Involving communities in the development of UHC was felt to be essential, to inform the development of definitions, metrics and care standards.
  • COVID-19: The pandemic has exacerbated existing issues such as health inequalities, and highlighted the importance of primary healthcare and the need for robust healthcare systems. Participants argued that the pandemic may also create conditions for the re-engineering of health systems that better achieve quality UHC goals.

Workshop participants identified a range of ways in which the research community could address these challenges. They called for a common understanding of quality across stakeholders, one that incorporates community perceptions of quality, as well as agreed metrics to be able to assess and monitor quality of care.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Latin America. In these difficult times, the research community has a key role to play in delivering the evidence to ensure that healthcare systems deliver quality care to all, effectively and efficiently.


For more information, please download the full workshop report, which is available to the right of this page.

This workshop is the second of three policy workshops in 2020 looking at Universal Health Coverage in Low and-Middle-Income Settings, delivered as part of the Academy’s GCRF programme. For more information, including our wider work on UHC, please visit our dedicated GCRF page.

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