The road to universal health coverage: a case study on Gabon

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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. In Gabon, they’re being used to raise revenue for the national health system.

A 10% 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% 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% of the population in 2012 from less than 20% 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.

“From the start the government put the focus on the poor, and then they implemented reforms quickly,” said Dr Hélène Barroy, a WHO senior health financing specialist who co-authored a review of Gabon’s health finance reforms last year. “In just 5 years they are now covering basically all of their poor.” 

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