WHO launches World Health Report 2013 on universal health coverage

World Health Organization Director Margaret Chan said on Thursday that the recent World Health Report on research for universal health coverage makes multiple strong calls for change in how research dollars are used.

Chan spoke on Thursday in Beijing, China, at the launch of the World Health Report 2013. Chan commissioned the report on research for universal health coverage as part of WHO's attempts to support countries looking to extend health services and financial risk protection for more individuals.

Chan said she was encouraged by the large number of countries embracing the goal of universal health coverage.

"Universal coverage means quality health care for all delivered in ways that protect users from financial ruin or impoverishment," Chan said. "It is a powerful social equalizer, contributing to social cohesion and stability. It is not cheap. But when well-planned, universal coverage is affordable."

She said the role of research in operationalizing healthcare was clear in the inclusion of 12 case studies showing how the results of priority question investigation led to changes in policy and practice. Chan said the role of research is far from being used to its full potential.

"Our world spends more than $100 billion on health research each year," Chan said. "The lion's share of this investment goes to the discovery and development of pharmaceutical and biotechnology products. Research on health systems and service delivery receives only a tiny proportion of this investment. But it is never too late to start research on health systems and delivery."

The World Health Report 2013 strongly recommended the strengthening of research in academic centers and public health programs, closer collaboration between researchers and policymakers and a greater emphasis on operational and bench-to-bedside research.

"It is my sincere hope that this World Health Report will support countries in their move towards universal health coverage, and that it will also stimulate some changes in the health research landscape," Chan said.