Quality missing from global health agenda

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Today, more people than ever have health insurance. In the U.S., millions have signed up for coverage since the 2008 passage of the Affordable Care Act. Globally, there’s a high level of interest in establishing universal health coverage in countries without it. It’s expected that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals—a set of new worldwide goals for 2015 and beyond—will emphasize the importance of such coverage.

But health policy expert Ashish Jha cautions against focusing only on numbers of insured. Instead, he asks: Does health insurance actually give people good access to health care? If they do have access, are they getting effective—and safe—care?

Jha, professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), offered troubling statistics on health care quality around the world—as well as his prescription for improving it—at a July 29, 2014 Hot Topics lecture at the School.

“Most people think if you give people access to health care, they should have better outcomes,” Jha told the capacity crowd in Kresge G-2. “But health care alone doesn’t improve people’s health. And the missing link between health care and health is quality.”