Universal health coverage, priority setting and the human right to health

Benedict Rumbold, Rachel Baker, Octavio Ferraz, Sarah Hawkes, Carleigh Krubiner, Peter Littlejohns, Ole Frithjof Norheim, Thomas Pegram, Annette Rid, Sridhar Venkatapuram, Alex Voorhoeve, Daniel Wang, Albert Weale, James Wilson, Alicia Ely Yamin, Paul Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
91 Downloads (Pure)


As health policy-makers around the world seek to make progress towards universal health coverage they must navigate between two important ethical imperatives: to set national spending priorities fairly and efficiently; and to safeguard the right to health. These imperatives can conflict, leading some to conclude that rights-based approaches present a disruptive influence on health policy, hindering states’ efforts to set priorities fairly and efficiently. Here, we challenge this perception. We argue first that these points of tension stem largely from inadequate interpretations of the aims of priority setting as well as the right to health. We then discuss various ways in which the right to health complements traditional concerns of priority setting and vice versa. Finally, we set out a three-step process by which policy-makers may navigate the ethical and legal considerations at play.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-714
Number of pages3
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number10095
Early online date26 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2017


  • health coverage
  • health economics
  • universal health coverage


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